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Aitutaki litter warden inspires change

Thursday December 27, 2018 Written by Published in Outer Islands

Employed by the non-government organisation Aitutaki’s Conservation Trust (ACT) warden, Varema Ruahe’s days are spent beautifying Aitutaki.


The 35 year old’s responsibilities include collecting discarded rubbish, sorting through trash cans, and cleaning the public toilets.

Ruahe told CINews: “I wake up every morning feeling like a winner.”

And his passion for his work is obvious to anyone who meets him.

Father of six Ruahe says his job is more than just picking up rubbish and cleaning toilets. “It’s part of a bigger picture”.

“In Aitutaki, every little bit of trash that gets carelessly thrown away eventually makes its way into the lagoon and from there to the ocean”.

He stresses the importance of disposing of litter properly, emphasising that Cook Islanders need to look after the natural environment so that future generations may reap its benefits, as he has. 

“This job has brought many positive benefits … I am most thankful because it has given me the opportunity to educate my kids.”

Ruahe’s job has influenced positive behavioural change in his household too.

He says his children are now much more eco-conscious and love doing their bit to help keep Aitutaki’s environment pristine.

He believes his work has also had a positive influence on the people of Aitutaki.

While not everyone on Aitutaki is jumping on board the eco-train, Ruahe says many members of the community are doing their bit to help him improve the island’s environment.

When Ruahe was hired, he was told  by the ACT that there was only enough money to keep him in the job for seven weeks.

Knowing the importance of the role, Ruahe took it upon himself to find donors to who would help subsidise the costs of the cleaning materials needed for his job.

With the help of some Aitutaki’s larger resorts, Ruahe has managed to remain Aitutaki’s official litter warden.

He has been in the job for 31 weeks – the longest period anyone has held the position.

Due to limited funding, Ruahe’s future in this role remains uncertain, but he hopes that in the near future ACT will have the means to employ him full time.

For now, however, he says he will continue to show the Cook Islands what it means to be a true eco-warrior.

            - Teherenui Koteka