Cooks Traditional Chief: Water Rights Should Be Status Quo

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

Water should be free and not taken through eminent domain

By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 21, 2016) – A high-ranking traditional chief says it would be a "grossly repugnant act" for government to make people pay for water and take water intake lands off rightful owners by warrant.

Manavaroa Mataiapo Tutara Phillip Nicholas, who speaks for the Avana Nui water intake, is adamant that the tribes of Manavaroa and Kainuku have given the iti tangata (the tribes’ people) free water for "many, many years".

"We have no intention of changing the status quo now, or in the future."

A committee headed by Manavaroa has been looking at draft agreements between the Crown and Avana Nui intake landowners.

"This has still not been finalised, or signed, there are still too many loose ends."

Because of this, he says the landowners are firm in their resolve that government cannot proceed with the Avana intake portion of Te Mato Vai project until they are satisfied their conditions will be met –"free water and no land warrants."

"I have listened to the voice of the community within Avana Nui, all the tribes’people are speaking with the one voice – no water rates for water from our valley."

He says the Manavaroa tribe and the Crown have enjoyed a "mutually congenial" relationship throughout the years. Landowners in Avana Nui Valley will provide the water for free and in return, government will maintain the intake, the roads to the intake and piping to homes.

"I stand for what is best for my tribe. No water rates, no warrant of our lands, as this would be a grossly repugnant act on the part of Crown."

Manavaroa stresses that he’s ready to go "all the way" on this issue.

"Avana Nui will support me," he said.

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