Friday, December 23, 2011

New Climate Change Appointment

TIS Member, Ana Tiraa has been appointed Director of the newly established Climate Change Department at the Office of the Prime Minister.  Ana is a well-respected conservationist both locally and internationally. With a background in natural resources management and climate change, Ana is a very suitable choice for this newly created position. It shows the Government is serious about Climate Change by appointing such a high profile Director. Ana has just returned from attending the COP 17 in Durban and will be a very strong advocate for the Cook Islands and the plight of the Pacific.

TIS Strategic Plan

TIS Programme Manager Jacqui Evans has drafted a Strategic Plan till 2015 for the organization, which the Executive examined at their November meeting.  Key areas are a programme for youth to “learn by doing”, implementation of a comprehensive membership strategy, conservation work in the Marine Park (Key Biodiversity Areas & Important Bird Areas) and assisting government with the development of environmental policies. TIS have so far sought input from the National Environment Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs Youth Division, the National Council of Women and Birdlife International. The plan is currently being re-aligned with the new National Sustainable Development Plan released earlier this month. A communications strategy is needed next to ensure our messages are getting out regularly and effectively. The plan will be completed by the end of Jan 2012.

Should we be watchdogs, campaigners, and/or stick to implementing programmes?

In discussions prior to adopting the Strategic Plan, what should be our core focus naturally was on the table.  TIS has an excellent reputation for instigating and implementing worthwhile Biodiversity programmes which gives us credibility not just at home but both in the Pacific and internationally.  However, there are times when as an environmental NGO we need to let the public know about certain plans that might be detrimental to our pa enua.  The question is how far do we go – just raising awareness or having to create specific campaigns which may result in protesting?  We decided that each case was to be treated on an individual basis, working with those most affected eg fisherman with the Fisheries Campaign, with a focus on awareness via media,  and public meetings, with protests as a last resort.
We have asked for copies of all EIA’s (Environmental Impact Assessments) from the National Environment Service, so we can provide an informed opinion for members and the general public on specific projects. We are hopeful that with the Prime Minister as Minister for the Environment and his “green” policies that former and potential environmentally sensitive issues may be minimalized or not even considered.  In order for this to happen effectively the new Investment Code as well as the revamped National Sustainable Development Plan need to give a clear indication that this country does care about conserving & managing effectively its natural resources for the benefit of future generations instead of exploiting and mismanaging the natural assets we have.

Deep Seabed Mining

Whilst the Ministry of Marine Resources is responsible for our ocean, the new  Act covering “Seabed Mining” comes under the  Ministry of Finance. Daryl Thorburn has been appointed Seabed Mineral Advisor funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
We now have the framework in place for the exploitation of our polymetallic nodules on the seafloor, which make the Cook Islands the  richest country of these resources.  Hon Tom Marsters, DPM, has had a passion about accessing this resource since he travelled on a research vessel some 25 years ago. The challenge is that our seabed is 4miles down and no viable commercial operation has ever mined at that depth.  FYI mining licenses now appear to be available for purchase.

Big Oceans Conference

Members of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) with Cook Islands participants from the
Steering Committee for the CI Marine Park,
With Sue Taei from Conservation International.
This was an amazing opportunity to meet with those who have already set up Marine Parks/Protected Areas in Hawaii, Kiribati, Chagos (Indian Ocean),Great Barrier Reef and Motu Motiro Hiva (Rapanui).  The catch phrase for the meeting was “L cubed:    Link, learn and lend”. The linkages created, the knowledge learnt and the lending a helping hand.
The Cook Islands delegration included Tania Temata of the National Environment Service, Liz Koteka of the Office of the Prime Minister, Noeline Browne of the Marine Park Steering Committee, Tupe Short of Koutu Nui & Jolene Bosanquet of TIS. A full report on this conference will be out soon.