The Environment Act 2003 (Part 2) establishes the Environment Authorities (IEA), these are statutory bodies authorized with several functions not limited to: identify priority areas of environmental concerns and to approve, defer or decline applications for Environmental Consents (Tier 2) and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) permits (Tier 3). NES will start providing updates on the outcomes of the IEA meetings to assist the public in understanding the scope of works and main areas of concern.
For Rarotonga, the Rarotonga Environment Authority (REA) is mandated under Part 2 of the Environment Act 2003. The REA members are made up of the ten members of parliament on Rarotonga, one non-Government organisation member, one House of Ariki member, one member of the public and one member to represent the public health interests from Te Marae Ora. REA members (MPs exempted) are appointed by the Minister of Environment for a term of 3 years. REA meetings are often held once a month with a quorum of 4 required for a decision.
In March 2023, four projects were tabled before the REA members for consideration (3 Consent Application + 1 Permit Application). REA members attended the meeting include three MPs and a House of Ariki Representative. These project applications complied with the prescribed process of the Environment Act where a Consent application is accompanied by an Engineering/ Technical Report, and an Environment Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a permit. Reports are essential for REA consideration as they pertain details on the scope of works, site description, and justify the project through development suitability and the design and planning. Reports also identify the potential environmental impact and an environment management plan to mitigate likely impacts. Some of these impacts include soil erosion, sedimentation or the transportation of soil residues to the lagoon via the streams, exposure to hazardous materials and air and noise pollution. REA issued an approval for one of these applications and the rest were deferred for the next REA sitting due its incomplete documentation.
All project applications seeking for an environment sign- off as per the Environment Act 2003 go through a due diligence process by NES from a science to legal vetting before recommendations of an appropriate tier/ environment sign- off is made to any Island Environment Authority. NES often also reach out to external technical experts for external advice/ recommendations when necessary.
The next REA meeting will take place in April 2023.