23 Mar 2016

Cook Islands chief says water charges 'grossly repugnant'

10:11 am on 23 March 2016

A high ranking chief in the Cook Islands says it would be a 'grossly repugnant act' for the Cook Islands government to make people pay for water and to take water intake land off landowners by warrant.

Manavaroa Mataiapo Tutara Phillip Nicholas, said the tribes of Manavaroa and Kainuku have given the people free water for years and they have no intention of changing that.

Our correspondent in Rarotonga said the government plans to eventually introduce rates on water but the concept of paying for it is widely unpopular.

Manavaroa, who speaks for the Avana Nui water intake, said landowners will not let the government proceed with the Avana intake portion of the major new water project, Te Mato Vai, until the conditions of free water and no land warrants are met.

A committee headed by Manavaroa has been looking at draft agreements between the Crown and Avana Nui intake landowners.

The chief said the Manavaroa tribe and the Crown have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship, with landowners of Avana Nui Valley providing water for free.

In return the government has maintained the intake, the roads to the intake and piping to homes.

Contractors work on the Te Mato Vai water project in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Te Mato Vai is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the Cook Islands, involving the governments of the Cook Islands, New Zealand and China Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs