4 Oct 2005

Cook Islanders land-ownership at risk under Bill, says petitioner

4:31 pm on 4 October 2005

Calls are continuing in the Cook Islands for more debate before the Unit Titles Bill is tabled in parliament.

Two petitions, in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, are circulating over concern that traditional land-owning rights will be threatened by the Bill due to be tabled in parliament this week.

Rarotonga Petition organiser Anna Rassmussen says the Bill is too vague in its reference to protecting the environment, and seriously dilutes landowners' rights.

"Under the Unit Titles Bill, the government wants to set up a Lease Approval Tribunal who is not the landowner, and the new lessee of that land goes back to the Lease Approval Tribunal and not back to the landowner. So that is actually taking ownership away from the landowner which is the basis of all land ownership in the Cook Islands."

Anna Rasmussen says while some landowners could benefit from the Bill, it has the potential to quickly impact negatively on the country socially, culturally and environmentally.