The proposal is for a 1 million km2 multiple use marine park which will begin just south of Suwarrow and extend to include all the southern group islands to the boundary of our Exclusive Economic Zone. The park is proposed by an individual, Kevin Iro with the support of the Prime Minister’s Office (OPM) and the House of Ariki (formal body of traditional paramount chiefs). The Park has the support of both the government and the opposition party in Parliament.
The details of the marine park are yet to be confirmed as they will depend on public input during community consultations. It is uncertain whether seabed mining and purse seine fishing will be permitted inside the park, and if so, where. Most tuna fishing is around the northern group of the Cook Islands. Manganese nodules are found in highest densities north and west of Aitutaki and north-east and east of Suwarrow. Lower densities of manganese nodules extend towards Penrhyn in the north and Palmerston and Rarotonga in the south.
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), together with the House of Ariki and National Environment Service has held a public consultation meeting in each of the three vaka (districts) on Rarotonga. The group, along with the Koutu Nui (formal body of traditional chiefs) has also been consulting with individuals from the outer islands during their stay on Rarotonga for the Te Maeva Nui Celebrations (independence). The consultations reveal that the public are supportive but have asked that further consultation be done on their islands where the remainder of their community resides. The northern group islands have questioned the focus on the southern group, but are reported to be unsure if they would like their islands to be part of the marine park as the benefits are still to be clarified with them.