Advancing Stormwater Management

18 March 2019

Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) hosts the Pacific International Waters Ridge to Reef Project (the Project), a relatively small project, that looks at capacity building, public private partnerships and monitoring land-based activities and their effects on the environment.  ICI will be commissioning several workstreams including conducting a stormwater feasibility study with a developed design, the drafting of sediment and erosion control standards and a booklet detailing the development permitting process with a sustainability focus. An assessment of habitats and presence of species is required to be conducted under the Project and ICI will soon be advertising for local environmental scientists to carry out this assessment.  Working with the Ministry of Health and the Cook Islands SPCA, a policy on piggery waste management will also be drafted to initiate improved piggery waste management.

The Project was originally developed as a communications based project to support the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai reticulation project for Avana Muri. However, ICI has increased focus on drainage and stormwater management as this is the area that is currently not being attended to and is responsible for a portion of lagoon degradation alongside wastewater. 

“Since the development of the National Roads and Drainage Policy in 2017, ICI has been raising awareness of the importance of managing stormwater and advocating for more carefully managed development” says ICI Secretary Diane Charlie-Puna.  “We now have an Infrastructure Bill that addresses more than roads and drainage and covers a range of infrastructure such as telecommunications, water, wastewater and power. The Bill is not an ICI Bill but a ‘cross-functional’ Bill that creates a space for all infrastructure managers to work collaboratively with each other” adds Charlie-Puna. 

“We are now seeing what we have been warned of by climatologists, less frequent but very intense rainfall that causes serious flooding like what we saw in April, August and December in 2018.  During November we were in a drought!” says Charlie-Puna. “People will remember how bad the rainfall was especially during the April 2018 rain where homes were flooded and land was scoured”. The stormwater and drainage feasibility study will cover Avana to Muri with a strong focus on natural solutions.  It is not clear what natural solutions could be used at this stage but the focus is certainly on soft options rather than hard engineering.  Fortunately modern engineering products are now evolving to mimic natural solutions, like water retention contraptions with slow release mechanisms underground.  A design for the viable option is a part of the stormwater work and this design is proposed to then be incorporated into the Muri Road Improvement Programme Stage 2, funding dependent.  ICI also looks to adapt the design to the rest of the Island and has submitted a Concept Note to the Green Climate Fund for funding Island wide stormwater management.