The Rising Islands of Oceania

Simon Fenske

Society and culture | Pacific


The volcanic island of Ambae in northern Vanuatu rose from obscurity into world news in September after ash and gases began spewing ominously from its volcanic crater. It’s 11,000 residents were promptly evacuated to neighbouring islands in anticipation of further eruptions.

I’ve spent eight months on Ambae, a mere six kilometres from the brooding crater. Therefore these developments were particularly concerning to me. But what struck me more was that a place I came to appreciate for the startling beauty of its landscapes and the incredible resilience of its people, was now being broadcast to the world through a lens of vulnerability and despair. This is the same lens framing atoll nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, sometimes even the entire Oceania region, as the “sinking islands,” or the victims of climate change.

But just as Ambae continues to rise from the depths of the Pacific Ocean, the people of Oceania are rising to the challenge of climate change with resilience and resourcefulness. Stories of disaster need to be told, but an exclusive focus on these stories robs the people of Oceania of their agency and reduces them to powerless victims of the world around them.

I want to tell a different story, a story both about climate change and about Ambae. A story written not by rising sea levels or cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, but by people, adaptive agents of their own futures.

[caption id="attachment_6560" align="aligncenter" width="499"] Not your typical "sinking island." Ambae rises steeply from its rocky coast.[/caption]

Climate change results in increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. On Ambae this was demonstrated by Cyclone Pam, which struck the island in March 2015. This was immediately followed by a severe eight-month El Niño drought that was widely perceived as the worst in many decades. The combined effects of these two events resulted in severe food and water shortages.

When 80 year old Loren, a chief of Saranamundu village, saw the challenges that these extreme weather events posed, he responded in a way that was both intuitive and innovative. Trekking daily from his coastal village to an altitude of up to 1000 metres, he began clearing and planting gardens in the cloud forest of Ambae’s volcanic dome. Many others in Saranamundu soon followed suit.

[related_article align="right" show_image="yes" index=1 text="Changing maps of the Asia-pacific"]

Loren was drawing on both living memory and oral tradition that recount gardens as traditionally planted at high altitude where native varieties of taro and banana thrive in moist soils and frequent cloud cover. It was only with the introduction of new coastal crops such as cassava, cacao and new varieties of taro and banana from the late 19th century that agricultural livelihoods moved closer to the coast. The current rise of high altitude food gardens also means an increased focus on native crops, particularly taro and banana.

Traditional agricultural systems are once again on the rise, and the impetus for their revival is very contemporary. It is an innovative response to the new challenges posed by climate change.

[caption id="attachment_6561" align="aligncenter" width="561"] Taro and banana garden in the cloud forest at an altitude of roughly 600 metres. The ocean is visible below in the distance.[/caption]

Over in neighbouring Vuinggalato, a village of several hundred people scattered across Ambae’s most rugged valley, locals are pioneering an innovative solution to their chronic water shortages. Devoid of perennial rivers, fresh water on Ambae was traditionally collected from ganu (springs), found only in a limited number of locations across the island. While rainwater stored in cement wells and plastic tanks have generally improved water accessibility in recent decades, these reservoirs quickly dwindle in times of drought.

The people of Vuinggalato responded by returning to their ganu, located in the mountains behind the village at an altitude of over the 800m. Using plastic piping and cement wells, spring water is now diverted to a set of storage tanks, from which it is distributed to a number of taps for ease of access throughout the village. Vuinggalato’s water security and resilience throughout the 2015 drought is inspiring neighbouring villages to follow their lead, with a similar system currently under construction in Loren’s village of Saranamundu.

[caption id="attachment_6562" align="aligncenter" width="456"] Vuinggalato locals stand in front of their ganu.[/caption]

Much like a volcanic eruption, the potential impacts of climate change in Oceania are truly terrifying and cataclysmic. But the people of Ambae and wider Oceania aren’t just sinking; they’re rising to the challenge of climate change in unique and innovative ways. Stories of vulnerability and victimhood are needed to help us understand the urgency of climate change mitigation. But perhaps these other stories, of agency and adaptability, will point the way towards realistic solutions tackling climate change not just in Oceania, but across the globe.

Read more

Crest of the wave or dead in the water? Australian regional climate leadership

Toby Warden

Society and culture | Pacific


Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement on 1st of June 2017 has lowered America into an enormous chasm of moral inferiority that Australia cannot afford to replicate for the sake of its Pacific neighbours.

Trump’s rationale is typical of his international relations psyche: overtly transactional and business-like. Any outcome in the international realm that doesn’t deliver fruitful benefits to the US economy is regarded with scepticism and deemed deleterious.

Pacific island nations do not carry economic importance to the United States but they do possess enormous strategic significance to Australia’s defence and security. The 2016 Defence White Paper includes that “we cannot effectively protect Australia if we do not have a secure nearer region, encompassing maritime Southeast Asia and South Pacific (comprising Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Pacific Island Countries). Australia must play a leadership role in our immediate neighbourhood”.

A secure Pacific island region is a core Australian national interest. Australia has a moral responsibility to be the guarantor and protector of Pacific security. Without American influence, the question of our regional leadership has become more important.

Worthy of greater alarm is the threat currently experienced by what Australia defines as crucial in the national security interest. Kiribati is now threatened by a predicted rise in sea levels over 6 feet by 2100 when the land itself only sits at 6 feet above water. A World Bank report found that the village of Bikenibeu, home to 6,500  could be submerged by 2050 with current rates of sea level rise. In 2015, Cyclone Pam affected 45% of Polynesia’s Tuvalu, displacing 10000 people.

An increase in global temperatures over 1.5 degrees would doom Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. As Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, emphatically put it: “As Pacific Islanders, we are fighting for our very survival…[our] existence as sovereign nations with land and coastlines hangs in the balance.”

This seemingly brings me to Australia’s highly politicised, yet rarely securitised, energy and economic policies. Australia is the largest exporter of coal. In 2015-16, Australia exported 388 million tonnes of coal, and contributed to a staggering 30% of the coal export markets, making Australia a global leader in emission fostering.

Coal proponents regularly prioritise the job creation, increased standards of living and strong and stable economic growth gained from this reliable commodity. Coal exports was largely Australia’s key to survival during the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and contributes to a resilient economy that hasn’t experienced a recession since 1991.

Canberra must remain vigilant to not develop the same psyche that pushed the US to withdraw from Paris. The domestic is undoubtedly important, but the regional, and international, is just as significant. Lowy fellow, Greg Colton argues that ‘no argument for domestic job creation carries much weight for island nations who are considering how to relocate their entire populations because of climate change. It is seen not only as a very selfish act from a supposed friend, but also ultimately foolish.’

[related_article align="left" show_image="yes" index=1 text="The rising islands of Oceania"]

To become the regional leader that Canberra strives to be it will first need to adjust its solipsistic energy and commodity policies. The Pacific Islands Development Forum, a regional forum promoting sustainable development, urged for an international moratorium on the expansion of new fossil-fuel extraction industries. While this decision would adjust the economy to finally ascend renewable investment above coal and other fossil-fuel industries, this future looks bleak. Both major parties are backed by coal-based industries and there are continuing propositions for new mines, such as the Adani thermal coal mine in Queensland.

But if long-term energy solutions and altruistic concerns of humanity are not enough, this decision could improve Canberra’s diplomatic perception and influence. Wesley Morgan suggests that Pacific Islands are beginning to engage in a wider range of multilateral platforms (that do not include Australia) in order to pursue their survivalist interests. The extent to which Canberra’s voice will retain projection, reputation and influence is at risk if its priorities in the Pacific are not properly addressed.

Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji at July’s Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event stated “to allow sovereign nations to slip beneath the rising seas altogether to preserve the economies and lifestyles of others would be an act of unparalleled selfishness and injustice. And any global citizen who believes in justice has no moral choice other than to side with you in your struggle.”

The Pacific nations are watching Australia’s every move. Malcolm Turnbull had the opportunity to champion climate change as a security issue at the past G20 leaders’ meeting. The next opportunity to convey Canberra’s selflessness and supposedly espoused justice will with the Adani coal mine. We cannot rely on the United States when it comes to this national security concern. In order to secure the national interest and pursue the moralism embedded in Australian values, Canberra cannot be like Trump.

3 minute read

Read more

The strange invisibility of Australian aid

Elizabeth Underwood

International relations | Pacific


Australian aid is a heavily debated topic. How much should we give? Who decides? How do we decide?

In his most recent book, The Foreign Dilemma of Aid, Jack Corbett explores the history of foreign aid given by Australia, and looks at reasons why it’s changed.

“When Australians are asked, “Should we give aid?” the answer is almost always a resounding “Yes”. But, when asked, “How much do we give?” the answer is often “too much.” There is no question that Australians are supportive of foreign aid. However, this support is shallow”, Corbett states.

How much aid Australia gives fluctuates depending on government. We had cuts under Fraser and under Hawke-Keating with a huge rise in aid under Howard, and no real change under Rudd. Now again, we see more cuts.

It is important to acknowledge, as Corbett says, that “aid does not exist in a vacuum”.

Factors contributing to fluctuations of aid decided by expert policy makers include the absence of the Australian population holding the government accountable, and the personality and interests of the ministers in government, which Corbett refers to as “court politics”. To say that one party favors foreign aid more than the other would be incorrect. Both parties have increased and decreased the aid budget. Aid is often vulnerable to huge gestures. In cases of natural disasters, public interest is high and while major cuts are made often for internal political agendas.

[related_article align="left" show_image="yes" index=1 text="How the US is upsetting the Asia-Pacific regional order"]

“Australians care, when they see images of natural disaster on the news they add appeals for support. But they don’t care enough for aid to be something that decides elections.”

Corbett spoke of three forms of legitimacy that ministers have aimed for in the past. The first was policy legitimacy. Aid can be used for multiple policy purposes, which means it can be used for political agendas. Corbett observed a pattern for new governments to cut aid when elected, and then later expand its budget the more time they spend in office.

Second is technical legitimacy, which emerged because of the belief that aid policy needs expert knowledge to be done well. Professionals crafting policy increases this legitimacy, but it also means that only a limited few have control of aid distribution. Because the budget is only controlled by a few and usually grows with more time the government spends in office, the budget is often considered too large and trust in the expert policy makers decreases over time.

The third form of legitimacy explained by Corbett was administrative legitimacy. This involves both policy development and program delivery. Both of these are pulled in opposite directions, as policy development is criticized from the outside, and program delivery challenges come from inside the government. When the two are balanced, the minister and government’s reputations are protected, and administrative legitimacy is achieved.

While identifying these three forms of legitimacy, Corbett also states that “I’m not saying you can look at policy in different points in time and say “at this time there was technical legitimacy, and this one shows policy legitimacy”and so on. At each point in time, aid will reflect a mixture of all. Legitimacy is a trajectory, which can explain the past, and influence how we think about aid in future.”

Corbett’s study of the history of Australian aid has shown that legitimate aid policy is almost impossible to achieve without participation from the Australian public. Balancing all three forms of legitimacy, each with their own aims and interests, has proved close to impossible. Australian aid is therefore passive to its fate of constant instability.

Shallow engagement of the Australian public is a key reason why aid is able to fluctuate with differing governments. A key question we can ask is “Would increased Australian public engagement stabilise aid?”. In question time, Corbett noted that this would be unlikely, and that instead, a holistic understanding how ‘court politics’, individual governments and domestic political contexts contribute to aid policy is more beneficial.  

3 minute read

Read more

Toil and trouble for suspected sorcerers in Papua New Guinea

Cinnamone Winchester

Society and culture | Pacific


When Raphael Kogun’s uncle became gravely ill in 2006, his family’s immediate response was to recruit a witch doctor in the hope of finding out who was responsible for having brought such a curse upon him. The blame was eventually directed towards a middle-aged couple from Kogun’s village in Papua New Guinea, and the family “ran after them and . . . chopped their heads off,” according to Kogun. “I felt sorry for them but they were witches, they deserved to die. If they were still alive they could hurt people with their magic.”

Two of his brothers were subsequently arrested, but witnesses, having felt too terrified to testify, caused the eventual collapse of the case.

Under similar circumstances in April 2014, a manic crowd from six villages in Papua New Guinea used axes, knives, and bows and arrows to murder seven people in Sakiko village, where the latest victims of sorcery allegations had sought refuge. The casualties included two children aged three and five, who were “wrenched from their mothers’ arms and chopped to pieces,” according to the PNG Post Courier.

Despite 122 men having been involved and subsequently charged with the murders (97 of whom pleaded not guilty to wilful murder) during the “biggest sorcery-related court case in the country” in March, the motive behind the massacre was far from unheard of. Papua New Guinea has long since been infamous for the overwhelming possession of superstition among its citizens, as well as instances of cannibalism, black magic, and sorcery.

Negative attitudes toward witchcraft have always been particularly widespread: a large portion of Papua New Guinean citizens-- particularly those in rural areas-- find it difficult to accept that sickness, accidents or death have been brought on by natural causes. Instead, these are usually thought to have been consequences of black magic.

James Tanis, President of the country from 2009 to 2010, has long-since been staunch in his view that the idea of sorcery is culturally engrained. "Sorcery is something . . . we hear from childhood,” he told the ABC. “The first thing that we hear from our mothers [is], 'Don't go there! Don't eat that! Don't do this! The sorcerer is out there!'"

Those accused of sorcery are considered to have deliberately caused misfortune through use of supernatural powers. They are usually punished by death, injury, exile, or destruction of property. Police reports reveal that victims have been buried alive, beheaded, choked to death, thrown over cliffs or into rivers or caves, axed, electrocuted, stoned, suffocated with smoke, forced to drink petrol, or shot.

In 2013, for instance, a group of men stripped 20 year old Kepari Leniata (who had been suspected of practicing witchcraft) naked and tortured her with a hot iron rod, before burning her alive on a pile of rubbish and car tyres at the Kerebug dump in Mount Hagen.

"When dozens of people have been killed after literal witch hunts, it's clear that the government is not doing enough to protect its own citizens," said Apolosi Bose, Amnesty International's Pacific Islands researcher. "The police and judicial authorities have to step in immediately before another person faces this . . . vigilante violence."

Following Leniata’s death, the United Nations warned of a “growing pattern” in sorcery killings. Her widely-reported case, coupled with the murder of women's rights advocate Helen Rumbali (accused of witchcraft, tortured, and killed only months later), prompted Papua New Guinea’s government to repeal the 1971 Sorcery Act in 2013.

This Act allowed for more lenient sentences for those who argued that their victims were committing acts of sorcery, and elaborated under the “sorcery as provocation” subsection that an “act of sorcery may amount to a wrongful act or insult within the meaning of Section 266 of the Criminal Code 1974,” immaterial if it occurred “in the presence of the person allegedly provoked.”

To reinforce the fact that the intent may not have been harmful, however, the Sorcery Act used the notion of ‘innocent sorcery’, which is “protective only, or is not intended to produce . . . any harmful, unlawful or undue influence on any person.”

As Professor Richard Eves writes, some groups in Papua New Guinea even make a clear distinction between sorcery and innocent magic with separate language terms— “magic being deemed benevolent, and sorcery as malevolent.”

Ultimately, the turning of the tide against sorcery in the country can be credited to the rise and peak of news distribution and availability in a digital age. The greater media reportage has shed light on occult murders; even cases in smaller countries like Papua New Guinea. The burning of Kepari Leniata, for example, sparked both domestic and global outrage as a result of the extensive coverage.

What, then, does this mean for Papua New Guinea itself?

Change is already taking place: while the now-nullified Sorcery Act allowed citizens to easily point fingers at suspected practitioners of witchcraft as personal ‘scapegoats’ of sorts, recent challenges to the establishment and application of the country’s laws are marking a change in viewpoint. Such heavy stances against witchery may indeed be, as James Tanis stated, “culturally ingrained,” but recent events bring hope to the possibility that it may be a belief that will soon disappear— perhaps not, however, with the wave of a wand.

4 minute read

Read more

How far I’ll go: Moana and Wayfinding

Jade Boyle

Society and culture | Pacific


Could Moana engage younger generations of Islanders and non-Islanders to the art of Wayfinding? The 2016 film starring Pacific Islanders Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is about a young Islander girl, Moana, who hopes to save her dying island; by stealing a canoe, sailing across the ocean and returning the heart of Te Fiti. To do this, Moana learns how to wayfind; a skill that continues to be taught in the Pacific.

Wayfinding is the art of sailing a boat using only your senses and worldly knowledge. Moana specifically uses star navigation in the film, using her hands she measures the angles between the star and the horizon to determine her latitude. Voyagers had also memorised star maps; learning where the stars rose and set, and identifying as many as 220 stars. Outside of the film, wayfinders also used other techniques to find their way. Birds can indicate nearby islands, as seen when they fly from one island to gather food, and return home to feed their young. Some very skilled wayfinders can lie in the hull of a canoe and feel the wave patterns, which indicates the direction the canoe is sailing in. Using these skills, wayfinders had travelled over a third of the earth’s surface, using the wind, the waves, and the stars as their maps and compass to find islands from Hawai’i to New Zealand.

[caption id="attachment_5728" align="alignnone" width="1763"] A Double Hulled Vaka moored off the coast of Rarotonga. One example of an ocean-going vessel utilised by wayfinders in their exploration of the Pacific[/caption]

So, where does Moana fit in all of this? The film also features a different kind of star power, as a variety of successful Pacific Islanders, from musicians such as South Pacific Fusion band Te Vaka to actors Jemaine Clement and Rachel House. Combined with Disney greats John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life), Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) and the popular Lin Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, the film was given serious street credit; and has been the subject of great debate in the Pacific.

While the film has most definitely caught the attention of Pacific Islanders and non-Islanders alike, raking in over $635 million worldwide, problems over representations of Maui and the Pacific have arisen. In the Pacific, the demi-god Maui is a defender of the oppressed; his stories of stealing fire, fishing islands out of the ocean and beating monsters, as referred to in the Moana song “Your Welcome” are stories of freeing the oppressed. It is uncharacteristic of Maui to brag about these achievements. Furthermore, the key source of Maui’s mana that made these achievements possible, is missing in the film; the Goddess Hina. She is Maui’s counterpart, and none of the Disney female characters could take her place, as they lacked her sheer power. It is debated that because of Hina’s absence, Maui’s character traits had to be changed to reflect this, presenting him as comedic sidekick instead of the hero he is.

[related_article align="left" show_image="yes" index=1 text="From Moana to Vaiana"]

The film has also been accused of depicting the Pacific as an exotic escape, continuing the tropes of the Islands brought on by colonialism. As the film depicts Tahitian drumming, Samoan outfits, tattoos, and Fijian music all on Moana’s home island, the film has also been accused of misrepresenting the diversity of cultures within the Pacific, and of profiting off Islander culture. Moreover, for people, and particularly children, who don’t know much about the Pacific, Moana could be the first time they are exposed to Islander cultures. Therefore, misunderstandings could occur about who Maui is, and the diversity of Pacific Islander cultures; despite the “Oceanic Story Trust” that Disney created to consult with experts of the Pacific, to make Moana as culturally authentic as possible.

But, could Moana’s success be an indicator that younger people are interested in learning more about wayfinding and the Pacific? The National Education Association (NEA) has suggested using Moana as a source for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 to learn about the Pacific. The Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region (TPS) has also created an educators guide to using Moana as a source to explore other subjects like science, language, and mathematics.

Beyond the silver screen, there are groups that are boosting awareness about the different techniques and types of wayfinding, such as the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) in Hawai’i. PVS had initiated a return expedition from Hawai’i to Tahiti in a 20-metre canoe known as the Hōkūleʻa in 1976. This expedition proved that wayfinding was not only a skill, but Islanders were travelling to new islands with a purpose, not finding them by accident. Furthermore, various other non-profit organisations in the Pacific are also promoting and protecting different types of Pacific Islander voyaging in their own countries like Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

While it’s still too early to tell what kind of course Moana has charted, one can only hope it is a positive way forward.

5 minute read

Read more

The debate over phosphate for Makatea

Nicholas Hoare

Society and culture | Pacific


In late November-2016, the French Polynesian Présidence at Papeete played host to an important, and well-attended, exhibition titled Makatea: Past, Present, Future.

From its opening, the exhibition transformed from a site of historical memory into a site of heated debate. Landowners, office-holders, young job seekers and environmentalists came together to articulate their visions and concerns over Australian engineer Colin Randall’s proposals to re-open mining industry on Makatea for its phosphate reserves.

The exhibition coincided with the Tuamotuan island’s 50th anniversary of the end of phosphate mining. One could be excused in thinking the exhibition’s purpose was purely memorial - a nod to a bygone era where phosphate mining was a pillar of the French Polynesian export-led economy. This exhibition however was imbued with political motivations. It was the brain-child of Colin Randall, who after being a mainstay in the Hunter Valley coal mining industry for forty years, now turns his attention to French Polynesia in order to gain concessions from the Government to re-mine the island of Makatea for its residual phosphate reserves.

[caption id="attachment_5166" align="aligncenter" width="485"] Attendees at the Makatea: Past, Present and Future Exhibition[/caption]

In order to receive the concession it is incumbent upon Randall and his company to demonstrate their project has the support of te fatu fenua (people of the land). The exhibition thus turned into a four-day long public relations exercise where Randall attempted to assuage concerns about the adverse impacts of future mining.

According to Randall, in thirty years’ time his project will have rehabilitated 1,600 ha of land, created a functional port, an airstrip, provided the island with water supply and waste management, and will have laid the foundations for a future based on eco-tourism and agriculture. For Randall, there is no such thing as exploitation without rehabilitation, and his plan is to rehabilitate each parcel of land as the mining proceeds. He labelled rehabilitation efforts on Nauru—a constant touchstone over the four-days—a ‘disgrace,’ and urged people to look towards Christmas Island as a model.

While Randall is optimistic his rehabilitation plans will succeed, others have expressed scepticism. Filmmaker and naturalist Michel Huet likens them to a science-fiction novel, a completely crazy project. While some locals were encouraged by the future benefits of an airstrip, others were discouraged by the adverse impacts of mining on their health. Examples of this were cited, such as that of 2014 when the Israeli Government pulled the plug on a proposed mining project at Sde Brir owing to the potential ill-effects of air pollution on people’s health in the nearby town of Arad.

[caption id="attachment_5174" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Posters advertising exhibition crossed out and tagged with 'non'[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_5163" align="aligncenter" width="465"] More defaced exhibition posters[/caption]

Broader environmental arguments may not have entered the conversation at the Présidence, but the wider implications of continued phosphate dependency have many in the scientific community concerned. Environmental scientists are worried that fertiliser run-off, eutrophication of waterways, and subsequent algal blooms will lead to worsened hypoxia, that is, a higher incidence of global “dead-zones” or regions where life cannot be sustained.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the project, it has clearly split the community. While mining is supported by the mayor of Makatea, Julien Mai, and mayor Teina Maraeura of Rangiroa, the commune to which Makatea belongs, during the exhibition there was constant anti-mining protests  surrounding the Presidence. A strong contingent of around eighty protesters were present on the first morning of proceedings despite the rain, with the anti-mining groups Te Fatu Fenua no Makatea, led by Sylvanna Tupuhina Nordman, and Rupe no Makatea, led by Danny Pittman, both in sync as they cried out-loud “Do Not Touch Makatea!”

[caption id="attachment_5173" align="aligncenter" width="521"] Protesters gathering outside Presidence[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_5160" align="aligncenter" width="520"] Protest banner[/caption]

To Randall’s credit, his exhibition provided an arguably overdue chance  for people to express their hopes and fears for the island. Talks were often heated and tempers were regularly stretched, but dialogue was shared amongst different generations. Many of the young Makatean men in attendance expressed their preference for the project owing to the opportunities it would provide them for training and employment.

For those in opposition to the project, environmental concerns outweigh any short-term economic benefits. According to botanist Fred Jacq, Makatea is a “hot spot” for biodiversity. The endangered Polynesian imperial pigeon, known locally as the Rupe (ducula aurorae), which having disappeared from the rest of French Polynesia, has seen its numbers increase on Makatea since mining ceased. Left to their own devices, birds such as the Rupe dispersed seeds across the island,  revegetatating and repopulating the once-mined areas to such an extent that Bird Life International has labelled Makatea an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.

[caption id="attachment_5169" align="aligncenter" width="515"] Rupe Bird on Makatea (From:[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_5172" align="aligncenter" width="519"] A Rupe featured on protest banners[/caption]

The prospect of renewed mining has endangered this status, and has pushed the two anti-mining groups into vowing their continued opposition to the project. Meanwhile an online petition to ‘save the Noah’s Ark of the South Pacific’ has so far attracted 140,000 signatures. Randall repeatedly said he intends to walk away if te fatu fenua do not want him there. Yet for somebody who has expended such a significant amount of time and  resources, it is difficult to say how true these words will prove to be. Whatever the outcome, the next coming months of 2017 will be critical in determining the future of Makatea and its inhabitants.

5 minute read

Read more

Back to Top