Monday, March 29

Earth Hour in Rarotonga

This year Rarotonga took part in wwf’s Earth Hour for the second time.
In case you missed the world-wide publicity, Earth Hour encouraged people to turn off electric lights for one hour on Saturday 27 March to save power and raise awareness about climate change.
Our newest cabinet minister, Cassey Eggelton, is MP for the village of Matavera where a candlelight vigil was held on the Takitumu school field. Cassey is now the environment minister and was the face of Earth Hour for the Cook Islands.
We called our celebration Matariki Night, the idea being that if you turned out the lights you would be able to see the stars. Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades, the seven sisters (matariki means ‘little eyes’).
Not too many stars were visible on the night because of clouds but we were quite lucky – during the afternoon it rained heavily but the evening was fine.
Around the island some shops and hotels joined in Earth Hour as did the Avatiu sports club with a candlelit party out on the field.
Te Aponga Uira (TAU), the power company, sent power usage updates to one of the local radio stations, 88FM and the results were pretty pleasing.
We had a 390 kilowatt decrease in readings, with Takuvaine, Tupapa, Matavera and Turangi recording the biggest drops. Last year the decrease was 200kW.
So, altogether a good effort from Rarotonga.
The country is also beginning to do something about renewable energy.
Solar water heating has been around for many years but now people are getting wind turbines or solar panels to generate power for other things and TAU is fitting meters that can run backwards and allow you to send electricity back into the grid.
I’ve been looking into that but in the meantime it’s a case of remembering to turn out unnecessary lights to save electricity, save money and save the planet.

Sunday, March 21

More mini games sports videos

I’m still working on videos from the mini games.
OK, I know the games were in September last year but I’ve had other things to do – like overseas holidays – and there were fifteen codes (although I didn’t get any sailing footage because it was in Aitutaki).
There have recently been critical comments in Cook Islands News about the sports arena, stadium and hosting the games. They’re actually political comments concerned with the costs, the financial situation in the country and party stalwarts trying to score brownie points by being ‘holier than thou’ when it comes to government spending.
Well, it’s a bit late now. The Demos were behind it at the time and the CIP was totally silent (on that and everything else).
Anyway, this video shows the women’s six-person va’a teams getting ready for the 20km marathon.
We call our outrigger canoes vaka but va’a is the accepted international name for them.
Tahiti have the top va’a teams in the Pacific. They won all ten gold medals at the games, men’s and women’s, singles and six-man, sprints and long distance.
The Cooks won bronze (M V6 1500m), silver (W V6 1500m and 500m), silver (M V1 15k), bronze (M V6 30k), silver (W V6 20k).
Interestingly enough, politicians all seemed to be pretty happy with games medal-winning performances, never mind the expense.

Sunday, March 14

Rarotonga primary schools fight it out

The weather on Rarotonga is usually pretty good.

I’m talking about local standards here; to those who’ve been suffering recent storms and snow in Europe or America it must seem close to perfect.
It’s certainly true that the fine weather encourages people to get out and take part in sports and our schools, both primary and secondary, are doing their bit by offering lots of sporting choices and organising tournaments in various codes.
Netball, rugby and athletics used to be the major inter-school tournaments but these days you can add soccer, cricket, basketball, touch rugby and volleyball (the subject of this video). And secondary school kids now get the chance to try their hands at lawn bowls and outrigger canoeing.
There used to be so-called experts around who said competition was a bad thing. Maybe there still are but they wouldn’t impress many people in the Cooks. Our kids love the added spice of whopping other schools!

Sunday, March 7

Rarotonga’s wetlands – taro swamps

Back on the subject of Cook Islands wetlands (see also the Ngatangiia Salt Marshes) the northern group islands don’t have any but most of the southern group have freshwater marshes and swamps while Mangaia, Atiu and Mitiaro have freshwater lakes albeit shallow ones.
Freshwater swamps on Rarotonga are, or used to be, on coastal plains and in flat-bottomed river valleys but many of them have now been turned into taro plots.
As you drive around the island you pass plots in various stages of production from overgrown and weed-infested, through freshly turned, with new shoots planted, mulched with kikau, black plastic or cardboard – often flattened beer cartons to healthy looking crops of rukau (taro leaves).
The plots are small but taro production is hard work. Everything is done by hand. Apparently once you’ve planted the taro in the lowlands, on raised beds with irrigation ditches, you can more or less leave them to get on with it – the plants grown in ponds take a lot more effort so I’ve heard.
Most if not all of the marsh wetlands on Raro have been used for taro or drained, filled and built upon. I don’t know of any in the original state.
Maybe on the outer islands some of the lakes have fared better or at least may be reverting to their original state now that so many people have left.
The area of terraces in the Tupapa valley (on the way to Te Kou) is really very impressive.

From A Directory of Wetlands in Oceania - Anna Tiraa

A series of terraced taro swamps extending for approximately 2.5 km along either side of the Tupapa stream from near its headwaters to the edge of the coastal plain. Water is channelled from the stream by way of a trench to the top of the top terrace, then down through the lower terraces to rejoin the main stream at the bottom. Traditionally, small stones were used to line the trenches to prevent erosion; in recent years, some trenches have been replaced with plastic and concrete piping. The taro plots generally follow the contours of the land and are laid out according to the patterns of customary ownership.
The terraced swamps were constructed for the cultivation of taro (Colocasia esculenta), and continue to be used for this purpose.
Although there is no legal protection, the taro swamps have been protected by their customary land owners for centuries.
The Tupapa valley has a timelessness and serenity as yet scarcely affected by the modern progress and development which has occurred elsewhere on Rarotonga. The terraces are of particular interest because of the pre-contact skill that went into their construction and the minimal change that has occurred in the overall design of the terraces down through the ages.