Cook Islands PM Blames Noncompliant Landowners For Muri Lagoon Pollution Problem

Improper waste management must be addressed; septic tanks need to be upgraded

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 27, 2017) – Property owners in Muri who have not upgraded or cleaned out their septic tanks be warned – the prime minister’s eyes are on you.

The issue of the water quality in Muri lagoon – and the connection with overloaded waste systems – has long been ringing alarm bells.

An interim plan to use special septic tanks descended into a farce last year when a combination of bureaucratic mistakes and local property owners reacting against cost meant little upgrading was done.

 But in an interview with CI News Henry Puna says he considers waste management to be “absolutely critical” and that the owners of properties not complying with the latest rules should do so, “without compulsion”.

“It concerns me that some of the properties in Muri have not complied yet, I believe they have a responsibility to do so immediately.”

Asked if that meant “fix it now”, he instantly replied “Yes.”

Puna says the issue of waste management “is a big one”.

“In fact I didn’t realise how big until we started getting our teeth into it.

“No wonder previous governments refused to touch it, but for us we don’t shy away from any challenge; we can’t afford to because the future of the country is at stake.

“Muri lagoon for example … when you talk about Muri lagoon you are really talking about Cook Islands tourism. That is the heart of CI tourism.

“Yes we have had challenges with the seaweed and the algae, but I have always believed that is to do with nature.

“In a sense nature was too kind to us in giving us real tourism weather – very dry, and very low tides.

“We didn’t have water and storms coming through until just a few weeks ago and then we

had a flushing of the lagoon and now the seaweed is clear.

“But we are not going to rest on that, as that would be absolutely dangerous. The concentration of people now in Muri is so heavy that we need to take extra measures.

“The sewage issue is one that we have already got a consulting company from New Zealand. What I am waiting for from them is how much it is going to cost because we have already floated this with our friends.

“When the vice-minister from Beijing came to the handover ceremony for stage one of the water project we talked about it. He said some very nice things that are still ringing in my head.

“Basically China is willing and ready and they are even asking for more projects on a tri-partite basis. The Chinese have gone, ‘we like this’ and they want more.

“We just talked in scoping terms, just generally floating the idea. When we turn our heart and minds and hands to it, it will be the biggest infrastructure project in Cook Islands’ history.

“I imagine it will be running into the hundreds of millions of dollars, but that is absolutely necessary for us.

“Muri will just be the starting point for us. We will have to take care of the whole of Rarotonga.”

And the prime minister says some property owners at Muri have been good citizens over the waste management issue.

“There are some that are really good and they go beyond what they are required to do.

“Pacific Resort is one of them. They are leading in that area.”

Cook Islands News
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Captain Tama, return the heart of te fiti. You are responsible for the lagoon.

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