531 PI
Niu FM
PMN News

Cook Island residents are pushing back on government plans to introduce water tariffs.


Dear Mr Brown - a plea to keep Cook Islands’ water free

The Cook Islands is planning to introduce water rates, but an engineer is leading a petition urging the government to honour ancestral agreements and cultural connection to the land.

A petition in the Cook Islands is calling on the government to continue footing the bill for water infrastructure, using taxpayer funds.

The Cook Islands is moving to introduce water rates or tariffs, with public consultations happening this week.

Engineer and petition lead Joyana Finch says there’s a deep, cultural connection to water.

“We may be one of the very last indigenous people who have that right to our land where no one can buy it, you can only inherit it through blood, and with that right, I believe comes the freedom of our ancestors to survive on that land, whether you've got money or not.

“I used to live in New Zealand myself. You think, ‘well, everyone pays for water, it's just a rate, you have to do it to support the infrastructure’, but living in the islands is very different, water means something different to us.”

Finch is supporting a petition to keep water rates covered by the government, and is calling on the government to uphold an historic agreement.

“The water is caught in the mountains by the landowners there, so the intake landowners, who made an agreement with the government many, many years ago that you can use our land to catch the water as long as you distribute it freely to the people.”

Speaking to Susnation Seta on PMN Cook Islands, Finch said these proposed costs would be another burden for families.

“After COVID, and once the airlines came back, there was an exodus of the working class out of the islands into Australia and New Zealand, so now we only have very young and very old demographic here, so they're vulnerable.”

The petition is at several locations in Rarotonga, as the Cook Islands government only accepts petitions signed by hand. Photo/Keep Our Water Free facebook page

The water authority, To Tatou Vai, is responsible for the collection, treatment and distribution of water to Rarotonga, sourcing water from ten streams and water intake valleys.

When the water authority was established in 2020, the then deputy prime minister Mark Brown assured Rarotonga residents they would not be charged for water use unless it was excessive.

Where to from here?

Consultations on the water supply tariffs will be held over three meetings this week.

Speaking to Cook Islands Television, To Tatou Vai water authority spokesman William Tuivaga said it’s an opportunity for the community to have their say.

“This is where we really need to hear Rarotonga's voice around what they think about the water service and supply tariff.”

Tuivaga said the draft findings from consultations done in April will be presented, and the ongoing discussions will impact every person connected to the Rarotonga Water Network.

“This tariff will apply to you, not only as a domestic home user but also as a farmer out there, as a business owner out there, as a tourism accommodation owner out there, also as a manager of maybe a government ministry.

“Every customer, this tariff will apply to you going forward. And so the whole idea here is to maintain the supply of clean water all the time.”

Water Tariff Meetings - June 2024

- Vaka Puaikura, Calvary Hall: Wed 26 June, 6pm-7.30pm

- Vaka Takitumu, Ngatangiia Sunday School (Avana): Thurs 27 June, 6pm-7.30pm

- Vaka Te Au o Tonga, Sinai Hall: Fri 28 June, 6pm-7.30pm

Watch the full interview with Joyana Finch on PMN Cook Islands: