Between Friday 16th- May until 19th May Nic Caviale had the privilege of flying to Rarotonga to meet with an environmental community group based in Muri. Through the IRF River Foundation-winners are given the financial opportunity to develop a relationship with a foreign country. The objective is to share lessons and skills learnt and then mutually benefit from this expertise which can create an opportunity such as restoring a river.
These partnerships are an exchange of experience and skills based around personal relationships. IRF assists by facilitating these partnerships and acting as a catalyst to help partners with seed funding and match networking opportunities.
The Muir community is based in the Takitimu district and is closely connected to the many waka who gathered in the Bay before starting the long journey towards Aotearoa (New Zealand). The strong Whakapapa connection found between the Muri community and our Wairoa district is extremely valuable and something we want to build on.
This part of the island is going through rapid development due to the expansion of tourism. This rapport expansion is happening without any major infrastructure upgrade which heavily affects the environment in general. During my visit I saw how the wetlands at the foot of the hills were disappearing and filled in to build new hotel and shops.
These wetlands offer a buffer from heavy rain falls which not only delay the flow of water but also filter the water before it reaches the beautiful Muir Lagoon. Climate change is also affecting the island in general by creating more frequent high rainfall events. The rise o sea level is also a challenge for the Cook Islands in general . The challenge lays in finding the balance between the development of tourism, the upgrade of public infrastructure and the protection of water quality both in the fresh water and the lagoon. The Muri restoration group has always been proactive and we are looking forward to the possibility of developing this relationship further in the future.