One needs only look at the way some of our own people litter at places like the social centre and use the public bins for household rubbish to know that, for some in our community, attitudes need to drastically change.
But what about tourism?
Do we have the best interests of our country and infrastructure at heart, or like land, has it all just become a commodity, and greed and self-interest has risen and evidenced in the bitter fights in court, the renegotiation of leases, and the upward trend of long-term rentals.
Sometimes the mighty dollar blinds us to our own sense of tiaki and caretaking of the Islands we promote as ours, as our own, and us as people of this beautiful Ipukarea.
The question may be do we have tools available to us that could bring balance to the negative effects of too many visitors, too much rubbish, too many toilets being used, and too much pollution in our lagoons and rivers?
Sometimes, we look ahead for those answers, but sometimes, those answers are among us and have served us since our arrival centuries ago, with regard to the management of our resources and land.
Ra’ui; it is simply the prohibition of certain activities, in certain areas to allow those areas to find balance and replenish themselves again. We have used this traditional tool when we needed to replenish food and fish stocks and to allow balance to find itself again and in time, ra’ui was lifted.
This customary resource management tool was revived by the Koutu Nui in 1998 under the direction of then President Te Tika Mataiapo Dorice Reid and in response to marine resources being under threat from over-harvesting. The intention of the ra’ui was to allow marine species to rejuvenate and ra’ui would ensure the sustainability of fish stock or any resource that are disappearing or in low supply.
The scarcity of our fish our coral and our lagoon health has caused us concern and we have instituted ra’ui in areas to replenish and sustain those areas again, so why could we not consider instituting the principle of ra’ui with regard to the way we do business in those same waters. To lead by example and consider our own complicity in this multi layered and diverse challenge.
Could we not consider a ra’ui on business activity in our lagoons to help them find balance once again? A ra’ui in our passages, which right now are being flooded with tourists and machines, sunblock and noise nearly every day, while turtles and moray that once enjoyed the serenity of their home, have had it invaded, day in and day out with the pollution of people because of the lure of money.
Can our lagoons, our eco trails, our tours, our lagoon tour operators consider ra’ui as an option to provide balance to the lagoon, to our land and to our wetlands, and consider taking the lead in our need to provide balance to our environment and say no, to any business on one, two or three days of a week, and set the example as Cook Islands Maori, and as tiaki of our beautiful Ipukarea. Because surely, this beautiful country and Islands are our home first, and not just a business for profit, because if we do nothing then what will we leave our children long after we have gone.
Do we have the courage and the resolve to literally put our money where our mouth is and make the change and utilise a traditional tool to address today’s challenges and bring balance.
To lead and not look to others for the answer and demonstrate that we care enough to do something and that profit will not prevail over people and our ancestral responsibility of tiaki, as guardians of what God has given us.
And, in doing so, ensure that generations after us will celebrate and not mourn the decisions we make today.
The choice is ours, it always has been ours, the question, is, what now will we do?