Cooks’ Tongavea Rejects Sea Bed Mining, Fishing Development

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Cooks’ Tongavea Rejects Sea Bed Mining, Fishing Development Government plans for fishing hub a no-go for Penrhyn

By Cameron Scott

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 7, 2016) – Tongareva (Penrhyn) has issued a firm "no" to sea bed mining, purse-seining and fishing hub proposal – and even the idea of a police patrol boat base on the island.

The rejection of purse seining and the development of an ambitious harbour and service facilities for local and foreign fishing boats is a blow for development venture Merchants of Paradise – and for government, which was said to support the idea of a fishing base on the island.

A government delegation led by Prime Minister Henry Puna and including Minister of Finance Mark Brown and three MPs made a controversial tour of the northern islands last week and claimed they had received plenty of support for rejection of an anti-purse seining petition presented to parliament last year.

However in his weekly article for CI News today, columnist Wilkie Rasumssen says at the group’s meeting on Tongareva, things quickly went wrong for the delegation.

"Without any reservations, the verdict was "no" to the fishing hub idea, the trans-shipment facility. No to any fishing boats coming to the island and no, people do not even want the new patrol boat to be based there."

Wilkie says that at the Tongareva meeting, Puna played on the issue that the people opposing the delegations ideas were being emotional and that he and his delegation based their arguments on facts."

Plans to establish a fishing base on the island were first revealed in CI News by former Penhryn MP Wilkie Rasmussen, who said at the time that he and all other Penrhyn Islanders in the Cook Islands would firmly oppose the project.

Government, through prime minister’s media man Trevor Pitt, quickly denied that there were any official plans to develop the island, a claim that was soon countered by Tepaki, who revealed that at his group’s meetings with the Ministry of Marine Resources, secretary Ben Ponia had claimed government was very interested in the idea.

Tepaki said government wanted to take the harbour development idea even further than the Merchants of Paradise plans, with berths for more fishing boats and even floating docks.

Pitt later admitted that the idea that government was interested in developing a base on the island may have been the result of Ponia getting "a little bit carried away" during his discussions with Merchants of Paradise.

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