Sunday, June 5
This year is the UN International Year of Forests; it’s also the Pacific Year of the Dugong but there are no dugong in Cook Islands waters and, while Rarotonga’s mountains are tree-covered, the outer islands don’t have forests so the Cook Islands National Environment Service (NES) declared 2011 to be the Year of Wetlands – Enua mou e vai ora (wetlands for a healthy island).
Wetlands include taro patches, ponds, streams, lakes and salt marshes but due to human activity they are declining, particularly on Rarotonga.
Environment Week ran from Monday 30 May to Friday 3 June and NES organised a big campaign including television, radio and newspaper ads and stories as well as plenty of activities – contests, quizzes and Lagoon Day.
One of the events was the schools performing arts competition. Teams from four Rarotonga primary schools took part.
Takitumu produced a show about the effect of building on wetlands, destroying food sources like freshwater prawns.
Te Uki Ou’s traditional ute featured a large cast who obviously enjoyed presenting their message of conservation.
St Joseph’s kids sang up a storm with new words to popular songs telling everyone that we need to protect our wetlands.
The Avatea students’ play was about the impact of dumping rubbish in wetlands.
Creative Centre students also appeared showing some of their brilliantly coloured paintings and reciting poems and speeches in both Maori and English. The Creative Centre is a daycare facility for people with disabilities and they do a fantastic job nurturing their students and getting them out into the community.
All the participating schools received cash prizes and awards donated by the Sustainable Land Management Project and the National Environment Service as well as CITC.
It was great to see kids taking an interest in saving our wetlands – maybe the older generation will take heed before it’s too late.