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Cook Islands



Conservation benefit: Establishment of a 2,965-acre forest protected area for 10 years

Community benefit: Renovation of community water tanks, purchase of household waste bins, and construction of paths and handrails

Date Approved: 01.2008


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

Mitiaro is one of the southern islands of the Cook Islands group. Its 318 residents live on the west coast in four closely grouped villages. Most of the island is only about four feet above sea level, and the seepage of salt water has left the groundwater brackish and unfit for human consumption.

Seacology is funding the renovation of the communities’ eight 10,000-gallon water tanks, which currently leak and have minimal water-holding capabilities. Seacology is also providing 60 household waste bins to help curtail littering and support the island’s waste disposal and management program, as well as funding the construction of steps and handrails to better access two water caves.

In exchange, the Mitiaro communities will declare 2,965 acres of their island as a conservation area for 10 years. This includes all areas where two rare and endemic endangered species survive, the Ā’i sandalwood and Mitiaro fan palm.

Project Updates

January 2018

This maintenance project has been finished. Field representative Tuaine Tuara reports that the eight community water tanks have been repaired and that the handrails to the cave pools have been replaced.

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January 2017

The handrails in the caves have not yet been replaced, because the island’s only welding equipment is being repaired–requiring that parts be obtained and shipped to this remote outer island.

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May 2016

All of the community water tanks have been repaired. The handrails to the two water pools in the caves should be replaced by summer 2016.

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January 2016

Seacology has approved a maintenance grant for replacement of hand railings at cave pools and re-roofing four of the eight water tanks, in exchange for extended protection of the 2,965-acre forest area for an additional 10 years. Building materials arrived on the island in January.

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April 2015

Cook Islands Field Representative Tuaine Tuara visited the village and reports that she is impressed with the community’s strict monitoring and management of the protected forest area. Island leaders were happy to report an increase in sandalwood trees and a variety of native trees and shrubs.
The community has also been managing its waste effectively, using the Seacology-funded waste bins and using waste as covered fill along roadsides. The water tanks are providing crucial freshwater during dry seasons.

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June 2009

This project was completed in April 2009. All eight refurbished tanks are full and have excellent water-holding capacity. Recent rain on the island has provided the much-needed water for the completion of the last two tanks. The community on Mitaro can now store enough clean potable water for use throughout the year. Also, thanks to Seacology, every household on Mitiaro received a 240-liter wastebin.

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January 2009

As of November 2008, six of eight of the water tanks were fully renovated. Field representative Allan Tuara visited the site in November 2008 and attended a closing ceremony. Due to water shortages, renovation of the last two tanks has been postponed until after the six refurbished tanks are full again for continued water supply. The project was featured on Cook Islands Television News in October 2008.

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June 2008

As of late May 2008, project leaders were working on correcting the shipping delays for the remaining materials needed to complete the water tank restoration. While they were waiting for needed materials they replaced all the old strapping on the eight water tanks.

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May 2008

As of April 2008, the project was pending a start date due to lack of transportation options to ship materials to the site. Cement was transported but other materials are delayed until another vessel travels to the area. As soon as a shipment can be arranged Seacology field representative Allan Tuara will travel to Mitiaro to help the project leader conduct the initial stages of construction.

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