Letter: ‘No future for pearl farmers’

Wednesday October 30, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor
Manihiki pearl farm kaoa. Cook Islands Tourism 19083028/ 19083029 Manihiki pearl farm kaoa. Cook Islands Tourism 19083028/ 19083029

Dear Editor,

On Thursday, October 10, I and other current and former Manihikian pearl farmers as well as the retail/wholesale stakeholders attended a Pearl Industry Forum. The Forum was jointly held by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), at the Sinai Hall.


As advertised, the Forum focused on developing a new strategy and engagement with stakeholders in the industry from Manihiki, Rakahanga and Rarotonga.

A fat lot of good that Pearl Forum was, because all the pearl farmers present did was moan about the absolute and total lack of consultation with the farmers.

After all, government decides to close down the marketing arm, Cook Islands Pearl Authority without even consulting with the pearl farmers. That’s right, it was only after government canned the Pearl Authority that they decided to try to find a way forward. Temu Okotai rightly stated “You guys threw the baby out with the bath water!”

In last week’s Cook Islands News article “Govt has decided pearl industry is ‘failing’ – farmer”, Temu again reiterates government’s failure to consult with Manihiki pearl farmers regarding the issue of Pearl Authority’s immediate future direction. Without true and open consultation with the pearl producers, they then shut down the Authority, shifting it to Ministry of Marine Resources.

And then they decided to formulate a plan together with the Pacific Community to consult with stakeholders at the Forum in Rarotonga, seeking the pearl farmers’ ideas and input into how the industry can move forward! Yeah, go figure!

If lack of strategic and forward thinking is their plan to revive the pearl industry then there is no future for Manihiki’s pearl farmers.

And as for our agriculture industry, fishing industry that would enrich our own people, the telecommunications industry, and our very own precious water resource, it is clearly obvious to many that government has removed the protection mechanisms for local production.

Is it any wonder that government is putting all their hopes into seabed mining, which I will continue to state will never happen in our lifetime, as the answer to all of their economic woes?

Look at Papua New Guinea’s experience with their very own Canadian miner Nautilus (of which PNG owns 15 per cent and have so far lost more than $100m). We must learn from Papua New Guinea’s misfortune.

This government has no idea what they’re doing!

Papa Williams



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