Cook Islands Tourism Being Impacted By Algae In Muri Lagoon

Despite some removal efforts, MP frustrated more not being done to protect visitor industry

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 19, 2016) – “Right now our environment in Muri – the lagoon – is shot. We need to save it.”

That’s the opinion of a frustrated Tama Tuavera at what he sees as inaction over renewed weed growth in one of the most iconic parts of Rarotonga.

“For tourism’s sake we need to address the lagoon issue.”

In recent weeks weed in the lagoon has increased and spread. Weed washes up on Muri Beach and tourists have complained about the sight and smell of it to the CI News. 

One New Zealand visitor, who has been coming to Rarotonga for the past eight years, says she is unlikely to return if the algae is not got rid of.

Each morning workers rake up weed from the sands and cart it away in wheelbarrows. Tuavera says: “You can go down to the beach now and the sea is calm. There isn’t much weed. First chance it gets when it gets rough then … boom … it’s all over the beach.”

He says he has talked with the prime minister Henry Puna about the problem.

“I said I don’t know why you are meeting all these people and not meeting with me. I’m the MP from the village and I’m also Captain Tama and we are on the water every day.

“You know. No one bothers to ask us about what is going on.

“I said to him ‘we need to sit down’. He says ‘yes I agree with you’. I said stop meeting with all these other people, who really don’t know what is happening or what to do.

“When you meet with somebody on reticulation, they’ll tell you what has happened, but they don’t come up with a solution.

“I’m sick of it! Every meeting is the same.”

Tuavera says the last meeting he had at Muri was for Muri residents only.

“I said to people if you are not from Muri don’t bother coming. You’re not coming with a solution. You are coming to tell us to be careful with the environment and blah, blah, blah.”

He says there are a number of steps that need to be taken to save the lagoon.

“We did scraping of the weed - that worked. We scraped the top of the sand because the weed’s roots are about 15-20 centimetres deep.

 “THE ROOTS will grow back and so need to be taken out.

“We need a reticulation system down there. I brought that up with a New Zealand minister. He says others have agreed that the WATSAN programme is the wrong one for the Cook Islands.

“It was not designed for white sand and soft sand, it was for rural New Zealand with big farms. So it’s pointless bringing something in here like that.”

And he added you also lose the use of a lot of land “running all those hoses over it”.

Tuavera added people needed to clean out their septic tanks.

“Of course with reticulation that would save us all that problem. This thing would go through one pipe and … boom … out it goes.

“I’d love for Muri to be looked at first, because that’s where the problem is.

“Muri is one of the iconic places. This is the golden egg area. This is where the tourists are.“  

Cook Islands News
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