Cook Islands To Conduct Geographical Survey Of Lagoons With Drones

Effort, along with sampling, looks to improve water quality 

By Chris Taylor

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 25, 2017) – Muri beachgoers have been temporarily detoured off the beach as the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai project to improve the water quality of the lagoons in Rarotonga and Aitutaki got underway this week.

From Monday  July 24 to August 1, 200m sections of the lagoon will be cordoned off each day, except Sunday, for geographical surveys in the morning, late afternoon and evening.

Part of the process includes electrical resistance surveys to detect and map subsurface features – similar to the technique used in archeology.

The survey began yesterday at the southern end of Muri and continues over the coming days northeast along the beach to Avana passage.

Water samples will be gathered along the beach, streams and within the lagoon.

Drones wil be launched from the Ngatangiia Rugby field this week and it has been advised by the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai Management Unit to stay clear of the launch and landing area, as well as the cordoned off beach areas.

Deputy project manager Daryl Rairi said the drones will be taking thermal imaging and survey works of the lagoon and catchment area as they kick-start their environmental monitoring and investigation programme.

Calls for improvement to the lagoon’s water quality have been made since 2010 when a traditional chief, Manavaroa Mataiapo Phillip Nicholas, first reported to two government agencies that raw sewage was being discharged into Muri lagoon from a private home.

At the time it was also confirmed that up to 80 per cent of commercial properties along the Muri foreshore were non-compliant with their septic systems.

Commercial properties including the Nautilus Hotel and Muri Beach Club were two properties that were given the ultimatum of upgrading their septic systems or face being shut down by Public Health.

Water quality in the lagoon still remains an issue today without a dedicated wastewater infrastructure in the area.

The following stages of the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai will progressively work towards the design and implementation of a permanent wastewater infrastructure for Muri, with applicability for all of Rarotonga.

Under the current projected time-frame it is expected that an environmental consent application for a permanent wastewater infrastructure in Muri will be underway along with landowner liaison regarding access by late 2017.

Findings of the environmental monitoring program in Rarotonga will also be considered in relation to Aitutaki.

Cook Islands News
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