Worldwide, waste is an absolute crisis which some countries choose to address and others ignore. There comes a time when you need take stock of where you stand as a Country, as a Company, as an employer and as an individual.
I believe the Cook Islands are a beacon for the Pacific Islands and Southern Hemisphere nations, on developing sustainability initiatives.
China and other Asian nations have curtailed accepting and processing other countries waste and are forcing the developed world to rethink their own problem – you cannot just send waste offshore to be disposed of, you need to take responsibility for it fully.
The Cook Islands – Our Country
Our country has a development plan to have all islands Fossil Fuel Free by 2021.
To date – 10 of the Cook Islands’ 12 inhabited islands are Fossil Fuel Free (i.e. they are not running diesel generators).The last two islands are being targeted now, with 40% of Aitutaki and 19% of Rarotonga completed.
Solar power is now the norm, and unless we have a long period of bad weather, the generators on these islands are inactive. Rarotonga and Aitutaki are scheduled for completion in 2021 and this will be with the private sector taking responsibility for a large share of this work.
In 2001, after 15-years of activity, the Cook Islands waters in its Exclusive Economic Zone (stretching 200 Nautical Miles from the coastlines) were declared a Whale Sanctuary – the beginnings of our Marae Moana.
This was further enhanced in 2012 when the Cook Islands created the largest marine sanctuary in the world within our waters. This was created with an Act of Parliament securing the formal structure for the 1.9 million square kilometre, Marae Moana.
Our Government has passed this into law with a few small tracts of ocean allowing fishing and seabed mineral exploration – but the rest is a total sanctuary for marine life.
Government is set to install a glass crushing plant that will take all glass out of our landfill and convert it into sand that will be used as a substitute for natural sand in building fill, concrete and block making and by doing so – removing glass from our waste issues. Additionally a law is before Government to ban single use plastic bags on island.
Accreditation – Mana Tiaki
Our industry adopted a revised quality control scheme for accommodation in 2012.
Now in 2019 we have taken that further and commenced a Mana Tiaki certification scheme, for accreditation for those companies who have adopted Green Policies in their operation. Turama Pacific was one of the first to achieve this accreditation and our 2020-21 rates manuals will carry identification of the properties who have attained accreditation – 12 accommodators have so far become Mana Tiaki accredited and this means they are using bio degradable cleaning options and fertilisers, minimising plastic usage, separating organic waste, renewable energy, use of electric vehicles and options for other eco- friendly activities.
The business community have been at the forefront of waste management and we acknowledge CITC, our main importer and supermarket for leading the way and forcing issues on others, not only with eco-products and bio-degradable plastic bags but also taking out of circulation plastic straws, and polystyrene packaging etc.
Turama Pacific Travel Group
Our company has always been at the forefront of protecting the Environment.
In 2003 we opened our new building, Turama House, which had design changes to the original plan resulting in savings of + 240,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.
At a time when there was little to no solar power on the island or in the Pacific. We installed a system, whereby our main buildings lighting and computers were run off Solar.
This building was ahead of its time and if visiting the Cook Islands, we invite you to come and view our efforts. In 2020 we will complete our own 2nd solar installation which will have the capacity to take us off- grid – i.e. we will create our own power from the sun.
In 2019, our Turama Pacific Travel Group brands will stop giving out water in plastic bottles on arrival and will commence providing our guests aluminium drinking bottles with safe water that they can re-use on island. This project will be completed late in 2019 with our own treated water filling station on site.
These aluminium water bottles can be taken away by clients, or returned for cleaning and recycling.
Using Aluminium water bottles, each guests staying on average 9 days we estimate, would buy 3-4 bottles of water during their stay. We estimate that this will save around 250,000 plastic bottles going into our landfill annually.
So if you do have clients looking for that sustainable tourism destination, we do sincerely believe that the Cooks Islands is a beacon for the Pacific in its efforts to achieve a sustainable the tourism sector and is well ahead of others in the region in taking steps to look after our planet. We are not perfect and there is still a lot to be done, but we have a strong lobby group and industry organisations that continue to push our Government to do better in this area.
We believe in our future