22 Sep 2003

Cook Island PM says government ministries must enforce environmental standards

8:26 am on 22 September 2003

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Dr Robert Woonton, has taken a hands-off approach to confusion over which ministry is responsible for enforcing environmental standards.

He says it is up to ministries to review their own standards and decide who should have the final say in the country's building industry.

His comments follow growing public concern over the level of pollutants in the lagoon of the main island, Rarotonga.

Scientists have identified seepage from septic soak pits as being one of the main causes of high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in lagoon waters.

But Dr Woonton does not support calls for a moratorium on construction, saying it is up to the ministries to do their jobs properly.

The Secretary of Works, Ata Herman, says his ministry reviewed its approval procedures for building permits at the end of last year and is enforcing stricter standards.