A core group of local experts on marine protected areas are examining methods to strengthen the existing system of marine ra’ui in the Cook Islands.
Representatives of the Koutu Nui, Ministry of Marine Resources and the National Environment Service have recently returned from a study of marine reserves and rahui in the South Island of New Zealand.
“The purpose of the study was to observe what they’re doing in New Zealand and see how we can apply that here in the Cook Islands,” says Iro Rangi, coordinator of the marine raui at the Edgewater Resort.
The tour is the beginning of moves to legislate the marine raui so that penalties become a deterrent for potential offenders.
“The question is how to enforce such legislation efficiently and how to legislate so that the role of Koutu Nui, who is the traditional authority of raui, is maintained,” says Jacqui Evans, who travelled as an advisor to Koutu Nui and the Program Manager of Te Ipukarea Society Inc.
Members of the study group witnessed the New Zealand government and aronga mana working together.
“It was good to see that the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries have worked together with the tangata whenua,” says Koutu Nui representative Tairi o te Rangi Rangatira Tupe Short.
Dorothy Solomona of the Ministry of Marine Resources agrees saying, “Communication between the government and the community needs to be improved for this to work.”
Solomona was previously the Senior Fisheries Officer but has now been promoted to Assistant Director for the Pearl Division of the Ministry.
“We need to work together to make sure there is compliance. We could have a system so that breaches can be managed by the aronga mana or community,” suggests Solomona.
Tauraki Raea of the National Environment Service who was also part of the study group believes there is work to be done to get more people on board with the marine raui.
“We need the aronga mana to encourage their tribe to come on board. Some of the traditional leaders are working alone and their tribes don’t know what’s going on. So I feel they should go back and consult their tribes as they work,” says Raea.
Raea says the same needs to happen with Members of Parliament.
“We need the politicians to come on board, no matter which government is in place.”
“Already we felt the need to legislate. We have to. But we didn’t know how. Now we could follow some of what they are doing in New Zealand, ” says Short.
Short adds that the next step is for the government agencies, Koutu Nui and the House of Ariki to develop a proposed management structure and management plans for the raui and take this to the people for their input.
Short, who is of Ngati Tamatea and Ngati Tamarua was grateful for the hospitality received during the study visit.
“A big thank you to NZAID for granting us the funding, Jo Akroyd of CIMRIS and also to the people of Ngati Wheke, Ngati Tarewa, and Ngati Kuri.Solomona adds, “The hospitality of the people that we came into contact with was very welcoming - like teina and tuakana. They treated us like one.”