Matters relating to the Biodiversity of the Cook Islands was discussed by the Kopapa Ao Ora Natura (Biodiversity Committee) on Thursday 31st August. A fundamental matter discussed was on Protected Areas and Protected Species. It was noted the NES has the mandate to designate protected areas and species through its Environment Act 2003, while other key stakeholders also have a role to play with their unique knowledge, skills and expertise when protecting species and areas.
While several agenda items were discussed, those that stimulated most discussion were a) the Biocontrol Survey of Weeds Project – noting that a biocontrol agent has been seen to damage non-target plants; and b) CITES, a Convention which regulates the international trade of endangered species – which raised the question why the Cook Islands is not yet a party to the Convention. A cost-benefit and gaps analysis for becoming a party to the CITES will need to be conducted, covering reporting and resourcing required to effectively implement the Convention. The NES will be re-advertising a Tender to conduct the Cook Islands CITES Management Gaps Analysis.
The Ministry of Marine Resources presented on the work they are conducting around marine biodiversity in particular the Pa Enua where they have observed new national records of species, while Te Ipukarea Society highlighted its upcoming School Holiday program in collaboration with Korero o te ‘Orau and Cook Islands Voyaging Society.
A new meeting format was used to conduct the KAON meeting and the new format was well received by the members.
The KAON’s next meeting is scheduled for mid-December 2023.