Seabed minerals plan next failure of govt

Monday January 07, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I hope everyone throughout our Te Ipukarea paradise had an enjoyable Christmas and I also trust that we will have a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!


And yes, politically there will definitely be huge changes about to happen shortly, which will truly benefit all of our people and our Ipukarea's future!

In CINews on Thursday December 27 the headline, “Plan support ‘overwhelming’” states; “DPM Mark Brown says consultation meetings have received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback on the seabed minerals exploration plans from two of the islands in the Northern Group...on Tongareva and also on Pukapuka, the message from our people was good... “go ahead and start the work now.”

Very interesting DPM Brown, that the very same people from these islands are likely the same family members who collectively complained about the severe impact from the purse seiners and the multitudes of longliners who are currently fishing their tuna resource up north, a resource vital to their artisanal [small-scale fishing] economy as well as to the feeding of their families.

And because PM Puna recklessly signed the EU purse seine agreement, we’ve lost access contractually to our fisheries resource for some 18 years, and now receive the princely sum of some 0.13 c/kg for our tuna resource, rather than the potential $7-8/kg we were once offered. 

Our people in Pukapuka and Tongareva continue to suffer the indignity of a government who refused to heed our serious concerns about our fish stocks being plundered by distant foreign fishing fleets, whose countries rape and pillage our fish resource for profit, while our very own people are finding it ever harder to feed their families, particularly with the purse seiners and their floating FADs further depleting our fish stocks.

As far as our people are concerned DPM Brown, they'd rather provide for their own families’ needs and be able to feed their families from their own fish within their own moana, like they've always done.

But your government has forever changed that reality, when you arrogantly and without due care to our people, unconscionably ignored their concerns about the potential for overfishing and plundering, of bycatch, and severe fish stock depletion.

Thus, the result as forecast: the projected inability of our own people to make a living through artisanal fishing, as well as to feed their families, has now become a tragic and despondent reality thanks to your CIP government who are now trying to scam us yet again with the seabed minerals exploration issue. And let's not forget about the Te Mato Vai, “not $60 million, but really $90m 5th order 50 per cent” fiasco, which will likely end up costing the country more than $120m. 

So, having arrogantly and intentionally ignored the concerns of our people in Rarotonga and the Pa En ua regarding the debacle of the purse seine issue and the TMV fiasco, you now have the unmitigated gall to continue railroading us with your bullying tactics while disseminating your one-sided and biased public consultations, rather than co-present a more comprehensive, balanced view about the seabed minerals exploration issue.

You failed on the TMV, purse seine, Manatua cable issues...seabed minerals are next. My question is: Are you so desperate to sell your people and our tamariki's future down the road to foreign powers who don't give a damn for our people and paradise, just so that you can remain in government to ruin us even more?

Haven't you had enough of doing this sort of thing to us? Surely even you must already know that most Cook Islanders have had enough of you and your ilk! 

And following in the footsteps the persecution of former CIP Minister Teina Bishop by you and your CIP the very same laws shall be used against people in our current government too. You have set the precedent and it is the law! 

Te Ipukarea Society and the Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga, defeated the CIP government in their High Court appeal challenge, with the Court of Appeal agreeing with the appellants that the Cook Islands government failed to conduct an environment impact assessment (EIA) before making the Fishery Plan and Regulations, breach of customary international law, international fisheries treaties, the Marine Resources Act 2005 and the Environment Act 2003 (Source: CINews, May 10, 2018).

This government has failed to have a proper, comprehensive, transparent and robust public consultative process with our people on the purse seining issues. In plain English, this means having both sides of the issue transparently disseminated all information at all public consultations in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua. It means involving relevant non-government organisations such as Te Ipukarea Society and Korero o te Òrau, and the Aronga Mana. Travelling together with these government agencies throughout the whole country, they can then fairly and openly co-present to the public “the good, the bad and the ugly” of any issue, where the public, now in possession of all and only the best informed knowledge, are now able to make better and more informed decisions.

The Cook Islands government failed to comply with the principle of the precautionary approach, and its decision was not based on the best scientific evidence available.

Had they complied and approached the issue cautiously, our people’s valid concerns would have highlighted any and all severe consequences and repercussions as a result of purse seining, such as blatant overfishing and excessively high bycatch, severe fisheries stock depletion, and the potential to be ripped off by the EU, earning a measly return for our tuna fish resource, as a result. 

That is the reality perhaps for our new incoming government, as a result of this CIP-led government’s continued incompetency in so many key areas, such as purse seining, Te Mato Vai, core tax write-offs, the Manatua cable, seabed minerals exploration/mining, and the development status issue. All these may require more comprehensive, transparent and balanced research to be carried out for our people’s sake, so we can then collectively make more and better informed decisions, should there be a need to institute a referendum for the important issues.

So, DPM Brown, don't expect us to keep believing the fake news you relentlessly continue to heap upon us. Because to be honest, your assertions on the seabed mineral mining issue are not becoming of a minister of the Crown, never mind a deputy prime minister of the Cook Islands. It’s a wonder people internationally haven’t already told you that you are a leader of a Banana Republic ... or maybe they have! After all, it is your government’s actions that define us as no better than a Banana Republic!

Papa Williams

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