Sand Mining Concerns Cook Islanders; Not Regulated By Environment Act

Removal of material could produce large stagnant lake, perfect for mosquito breeding

By Florence Syme-Buchanan 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 28, 2016) – The National Environment Service appears to be untroubled by current sand-mining projects because the activity isn’t mentioned in the Environment Act and excavation doesn’t seem to be happening in “areas of concern”.

Although fairly recent, the 2003 Environment Act doesn’t include any rules that specifically apply to sand mining – the removal of fine white sand to provide aggregate for construction.

The areas of concern under the Act are the foreshore, sloping land, streams and wetlands. NES director Joseph Brider says the Act sets out the distance from such areas where a permit shall be required from the Rarotonga Environment Authority (REA) for activities which occur in these areas.

He adds the Environment Act “does not mention sand mining as a permissible activity or not…”

Two sand mines on Rarotonga known to Cook Islands News “fall outside of the legislated areas of concern and therefore do not require a permit from the REA,” says Brider.

According to Brider, REA has not issued sand-mining permits to occur in any of the legislated areas of concern.

Although sand mining has become more prevalent in recent years NES is still working out how to deal with the activity.

An inland Matavera sand mine has hit the water table and is now filled with brackish water.

Amid their environmental concerns, residents are also worried that the mini lake will turn into a large stagnant mosquito breeding water hole.

A local who didn’t want to be named said it is ironic that the Public Health tutaka had just taken place around the island, but an obvious large pond that can become a mosquito breeding  site seems to have been ignored.

Cook Islands News
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