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The REAP Report: Tourism, Development and Beache

The issue of tourism, development and beach access has become a burning point on small islands across the world.

The issue involves traditional rights and customary community usage, tourism development, property rights and trespass versus public access to the beach.

This controversy is not limited to the foreshores of Rarotonga, the lagoons of Muri, the harbour at Avana or the prospect of major developments on the outer islands.

The Small Islands Voice Global Forum has served as an international focal point via the internet for debate on this issue for several months now. Unfortunately the issue across the world seems to be coming down to one of money. Those with money feel they have the right to buy beachfront property and to "seal" it off from the public. To buy and develop as they please regardless of community concerns and public opinion.

Governments are caught in the middle: between the need and their often insatiable appetite for money and trying not to upset members of the public who while perhaps possessing less money do cast more votes in an election.

This issue is a prime example of the test of political will and the need to strike a balance between economic, environmental and social sustainability especially on small islands.

And who should make those decisions - the people who live on the island, the developers, or governments?

Should we encourage tourism which not only benefits the large operators and corporations but one where the benefits will also flow to other small businesses such as guest houses, local shops, those in the transportation industry, restaurants, etc.? Looking at the structure of the current tourism industry some are inclined to think that many of the proceeds, particularly of the large tourism resorts, either never make it to our shores or if they do, don't remain here.

If a long term tourism policy is to be successful perhaps it's time to rethink our strategy. Building large five star establishments on the beach front owned by large foreign corporations is no the way forward if tourism is to benefit all the people. And we should finish projects already under construction before we even think about starting new large scale projects. Smaller projects will have a less destructive impact on our environment and will also spread the benefits of tourism to all parts of the country, thus giving rise to a local supply and demand chain, a vital ingredient for job creation and another reason for people on the outer islands to remain.

Small Islands Voice - Your Voice.

You may email your comments on Tourism and Development to smallislandsvoice@sivglobal.org

Cook Island News, 17 March 2003


To get involved, contact :


Ms. Imogen Ingram
Island Sustainability Alliance (C.I.) Inc.
P.O. Box 492
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 22128, 682 58289 (m)
F 682 22128

Ms. Jacqui Evans
Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society
P.O. Box 796
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 29110 (w) 682 55050 (m)

Ms. Gail Townsend and Ms Jane Taurarii
Curriculum Development Unit
Ministry of Education
P.O. Box 97,
Nikao, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 25270 F 682 28357


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