Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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The Cook Islands

The Small Islands Voice project started in January 2002. Its goals are to overcome the isolation of small islands by providing their citizens, including young people, with opportunities to voice their opinions on environmental and development issues in a variety of ways: radio, television, print and Internet-based debate. In this way they will: be able to contribute to the 10-year review of the ‘Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Islands Developing States’ adopted in Barbados in 1994; and play a more effective role in decision making in their islands

Small Islands Voice project activities in the Cook Islands started in June/July 2002. A UNESCO consultant, a UNESCO staff member and two specialists from Monash University, Australia, visited the islands. They met representatives of various organisations interested in the project: the media, government, conservation and educational organisations.

The Australian specialists conducted a preliminary survey on environment and development issues, as perceived by young people, over a three week period in June/July 2002 in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. They were assisted by 25 student teachers. Three survey forms were used, each for a different age group: children, youths and young adults. Two reports were produced - highlights and a full report.

A more detailed survey, using a similar format was conducted during the second half of 2002 by the Rarotonga Environmental Awareness Programme (REAP). This time young people and community leaders in Mitiaro and Mauke in the southern group islands and Manikiki and Pukapuka in the northern group islands were interviewed as well as people in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. A preliminary report ‘The REAP Report - Community Concerns’ was published in the Cook Islands News in February 2003.

A survey of the media serving the Cook Islands was conducted in August 2002.

A young woman from the Cook Islands represented the young people of her islands at the ‘Small Islands Voice Regional Workshop’ in Palau in November 2002. Her report on the workshop ‘REAP Report - A Youth Perspective’ was published in the Cook Islands News in December 2002. She also presented her impressions of the workshop to pupils at Tematangarengare High School, Mitiaro and to the general public in Mitiaro. The coordinator of the Cook Islands Small Islands Voice also attended the workshop and prepared a paper on ‘Small Islands Voice - Cook Islands’. The workshop and other Small Islands Voice activities were reported in CSI papers 13: ‘Small Islands Voice - Laying the Foundation’

The director of REAP, who is also the coordinator of the Cook Islands Small Islands Voice project, made a presentation to the Cook Islands National Tourism Forum in December 2002. He stressed the need for the tourism industry to help preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Cook Islands, which is what attracts visitors to the region.

A technology audit of schools and community centres in the outer islands was conducted during the second half of 2002. Only one of the outer islands, Aitutaki, has a good communications network.

The first issue of the Cook Islands Small Islands Voice Newsletter was published in November 2002. The second issue followed in December. The newsletter provides a place for comments on development and the environment. Many of the articles are written by young people.

Various articles on environmental matters relevant to the Small Islands Voice project have been published in the Cook Islands press: ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ (Time Magazine, September 2001); ‘Foreign Investment - Who Needs It?’ (Cook Islands Herald, June 2002); ‘Cook Islands 2002 Forges the Direction for Nature Conservation in the Pacific’ (Cook Islands Herald, July 2002); ‘Water Supply’ (Rarotonga Environmental Action Programme, October 2002); ‘Environment Bill’ (Rarotonga Environmental Action Programme, October 2002); ‘Cook Islands Coastal Clean-Up’ (Rarotonga Environmental Action Programme, October 2002); ‘The REAP Report - Small Islands Voice’ (Cook Islands News, December 2002); ‘Biodegradable Plastic Bags Available’ (Cook Islands News, December 2002); ‘The REAP Report - Us Islanders’ (Cook Islands News, December 2002); ‘Small Islands Voice Youth Forum’ (Nukutere College Yearbook Dec 2002); ‘The REAP report - A Youth Perspective’ (Cook Islands News, December 2002); ‘REAP appointed project coordinator’ (Cook Islands News, December 2002); ‘The REAP Report - Living on a small island’ (Cook Islands News, January 2003); ‘The REAP report - Toxic waste - dump it where’ (Cook Islands News, January 2003); ‘The REAP report - Our Beaches - Public, Private or Pay to Use?’ (Cook Islands News, January 2003)‘The REAP report - our coral reef ’ (Cook Islands News, January 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Biodiversity loss?’ (Cook Islands News, February 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Community concerns’ (Cook Islands News, February 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Mother Earth’s Dying Cries’ (Cook Islands News, February 2003); ‘The REAP Report - No Time To Waste’ (Cook Islands News, February 2003); ‘The REAP Report "The Landowner: What did he buy?" ’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘The REAP Report Tu anga Tanutanu (Agriculture)’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Tourism, development and beaches’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Save our shores’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘Small Islands Voice extend links’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘Nukutere posts articles on UNESCO website’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘Avarua tunes into Small Island Voice forum’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘The REAP Report - Weighing the cost’ (Cook Islands News, March 2003); ‘Nikao invited on to Small Islands Voice forum’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003); ‘No Internet but Mangaia School is still part of Small Islands Voice’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003); ‘Kids clean up centre’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003); ‘REAP Report - Island Heritage’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003); ‘World Earth Week’ (Cook Islands News/Cook Islands Herald, April 2003); ‘Hotel project hinges on second stage green light’ (The Cook Islands Independent April 2003); ‘Problems surface in landfill project’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003); ‘Landfill delays could have serious consequences’ (Cook Islands Government Press Release, April 2003); ‘Grave destruction halted’ (Cook Islands News, April 2003).

Pupils from Nukutere College, Rarotonga, were involved in the trial phase (September to December 2002) of an Internet-Based Youth Forum (user name view, password only). They posted a paper on ‘Sport and Recreation on Rarotonga’ in October 2002. They also replied to a paper posted by young people from Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines). One pupil wrote a poem about Rarotongan’s love of sport and what all islanders have in common. An assessment of the trial phase was conducted by the pupils and teachers involved in the forum in December 2002. Nukutere College contributed to this. A report on the forum was published in the Nukutere College Yearbook 2002.

Phase two of the Small Islands Voice youth forum started in February 2003. Pupils from five schools in the Cook Islands took part: Araura College, Avarua Primary School, Mangaia School, Nikao Maori School and Nukutere College. They posted papers on: ‘Agriculture (Tu anga Tanutanu)’; ‘Island Heritage: Pride in Uniqueness of our Island Home’; ‘Education on Aitutaki’; ‘Drug Abuse’ and ‘The Asbestos Issue in our School’ (user name view, password only). They also replied to papers posted by young people from Dominica, Palau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, San Andres and the Seychelles.

Computer equipment has been supplied to Avarua Primary school and Nikao Maori Primary School so that they can participate in the Small Islands voice youth forum. combined telephone, fax and copy equipment has been given to schools in the outer islands (Rutaki School, Mangaia College and Tamarua School) so that they have an instant mode of communication. The Principal of Rutaki School expressed his thanks in the Cook Islands News ‘Small Islands Voice Communication Links’ (March 2003). Managaia School still does not have an Internet link, but it manages to participate in the youth forum through the Rarotonga Environmental Awareness Programme. 

In February 2003 the Small Islands Voice national coordinators and others from the Cook Islands, Palau, the Seychelles, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines took part in an inter-regional conference call. They discussed phase two of the Youth Forum and the preparations for the 2004 review of the Small Island Developing States Programme of Action.

Several people from the Cook Islands have participated in discussions on the Small Islands Voice Internet-based global forum. An article from the Cook Islands News (June 2002)  ‘Foreign Investment - Who Needs It?’ was posted on the forum in May 2003 and became the start of a discussion on investment and development in small islands: ‘Cook Islands: Untapped Paradise?’; ‘Fostering Development Where It Matters: the Turks and Caicos Islands’; ‘Facing up to the Tough questions of Population Control and Political Improvement’; ‘Saving Island Identity’. Cook Islanders also contributed to a discussion on beach access: ‘Support from Around the World for Keeping Beaches Open to the Public’; ‘Providing Public Access to the Beach’.

In March 2003 Mangaia community television began to broadcast programmes produced by pupils of Mangaia School and by Mangaia Tanga’eo environmental rangers. The programmes have included news from the school and environmental and health messages.

Nikao Primary School pupils carried out a ‘Clean-up Campaign’ as part of the ‘Adopt a Beach Programme’. 

A Second Regional Sandwatch Workshop was held in Dominica in July 2003. As part of the Small Islands Voice initiative young people from the Seychelles, the Cook Islands and Palau participated in the workshop.



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