Environmental concerns raised. Massive opportunity for future generations highlighted
Over 120 Cook Islanders bombarded the leaders of government-owned Avaroa Cable Ltd, and its scientific advisers, as they submitted themselves to public scrutiny last week.
Tough and sustained questioning lead to the good-humoured public meetings running late into the night on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
International cooperation with Niue, French Polynesia and Samoa on a “Trans-Polynesian Information Superhighway” lay at the heart of the proposals which focused on transforming internet connectivity for Cook Islanders.
Environmental impacts were a key concern – from impact on fishing to ecological disruption.
Luke Gowing, Marine Scientist and Environmental Adviser to ACL addressed the concerns: “The environmental impacts of the cable have been analysed in detail. Having worked on many cable projects in the Pacific, I am confident that the minor environmental impacts associated with the Manatua Cable project can be fully mitigated through adopting measures outlined in an Environmental and Social Management Plan. The project has my full support”
The opportunity the cable will create for future generations was a central theme of the endorsement given to the project by community and church leaders on both islands.
Glassie Matata, Tiotekai Mataiapo for Rutaki Village, where the cable will land on Rarotonga, said “The Aronga Mana of Rutaki very much support this very important project.”
Tutai o Pore, Manarangi Tutai Ariki for Vaipaepae o Pau of Aitutaki said: “This project isn’t just about what our community needs now, it’s about the future of our children and our children’s children, and it has my full endorsement.”
Many challenged whether the cable would really deliver better services.
Dr Ranulf Scarbrough, ACL CEO and Vice Chair of the Manatua Cable Consortium said: “The Manatua Cable is the missing link in transforming Cook Islands connectivity but it needs others to do their part as well. Government is consulting on a new policy and Telecommunications Act to introduce competition and a regulator. Telecommunications retailers need to think about the new services and innovations the cable will enable. And every business, consumer, student, government department, NGO etc will need to think about how they can use the cable connectivity to do whatever they do ... but SMARTER !”
Information collected at the sessions with be incorporated in ACL’s formal submission to the National Environment Service who will oversee the robust approval process for the project over the coming weeks. The Manatua Cable is expected to be live in May 2020.