Historical milestone for conservation in the Cook Islands: Takitumu Conservation Area recognised as an OECM

The Cook Islands has embarked on a historical journey to give the Takitumu Conservation Area international recognition as an Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure (OECM). This is the first OECM site for the Cook Islands, and for the Pacific islands region.

What is an OECM:

An OECM is a site that achieves effective long-term in-situ conservation of biodiversity. It is different than an internationally recognised protected area as it is not legally protected, and may be set aside for purposes other than conservation e.g. water security (water catchments). However, they still achieve conservation of biodiversity in its natural environment.

Establishing areas as OECMs is one way that the Cook Islands can help to achieve the global target in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to achieve 30% protection of terrestrial and inland water areas, and 30% of marine and coastal areas important for biodiversity, by 2030.

NES would like to give its sincere appreciation to the TCA Working Group and landowners, SPREP, UNEP-WCMC, International Union for Conservation of Nature Oceania Regional Office (IUCN ORO) and Infrastructure Cook Islands Planning & Projects Unit for their support in achieving this incredible milestone. 


For Biodiversity Day 2024, the Cook Islands celebrated Ngai Taporoporo o Takitumu / Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) as an Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure (OECM).

This is the first OECM for the Cook Islands and for the Pacific. Congratulations, TCA on leading the way for the Pacific!

 The Kākerōri is an endemic bird. In 1989, only 29 kākerōri remained in the world. Through rat control efforts, the kākerōri population has increased to at least 618 birds as of 2023. In 2022, around 30 kākerōri were relocated as part of a recovery program due to their being no ship rats on Atiu. Kākerōri numbers have now flourished on both Rarotonga and Atiu and it is no longer a risk of extinction. 

Cook Islands OECM process for the TCA:

In January 2023, the National Environment Service (NES) hosted a national workshop, with the support of United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), to introduce OECMs and their criteria to government and community representatives, and identify potential OECM sites within the Cook Islands. At this workshop, there was consensus from all participants that the Takitumu Conservation Area was the best potential OECM site for the Cook Islands. 

NES began populating the OECM assessment screening tool and full assessment to ensure that the TCA met all of the criteria to be classified as an OECM. The NES then hosted a 2-day community workshop from 1st – 2nd November 2023 to introduce the OECM concept to the three Ngāti whose land the TCA is located on – Ngāti Kainuku, Ngāti Karika and Ngāti Manavaroa. The community advised the NES on key information missing from the OECM assessment, which was then used to amend the assessment tool. 

The NES formed a TCA OECM Working Group, consisting of landowners from each Ngāti and NES, to further refine the information in the assessment tool, which was largely derived from the TCA Management Plan 2020-2030. The TCA Working Group met 3 times between January – February 2024 to do so, before taking the assessment back to the wider Ngāti on 12 March 2024 for confirmation of the information and finally, obtaining consent to submit the application. Consent was formally obtained from Kainuku Kapiriterangi Ariki – Kapiriterangi Tere’s Power of Attorney (POA) her daughter Kapiri Tiaiti, Makea Karika George Ariki – George Taripo and Manavaroa Mataiapo – Phillip Nicholas, on behalf of the three Ngāti.

 What does being an OECM mean for the TCA? 

 Being an OECM opens up more opportunities for potential funding to assist with managing the TCA. It reaffirms the landowners decision from 1996 when the TCA was established, to keep 155ha of land set aside for conservation of the kākerōri. 

As the first OECM for the Pacific, awareness on the TCA has been raised at regional forums, highlighting the incredible conservation efforts by landowners & volunteers to save the kākerōri from extinction. 

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