Muri/Avana pilot project success
It has been just over a year since the very first installation of a new domestic sanitation system under the Waste and Sanitation Improvement (WMI) Programme took place in the Muri-Avana area. At this stage total upgrades stand at approximately 95% (of 240 homes), a great success in terms of project implementation. Total completion is on track to be concluded by the end of this month.
The WMI Programme, which is being delivered by the WATSAN Unit of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning, is funded via the joint Australia and New Zealand aid programmes. The Programme aims to improve waste and sanitation management, to protect public health and the lagoons of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The largest work activity under the Programme was to pilot upgrades to domestic sanitation systems to bring them into compliance with the 2008 Sewage Regulations under the Public Health Act 2004. This line of work was to address the fact that most domestic sanitation systems were in a state of disrepair and were contributing to lagoon pollution and public health risks.
The success of the project has paved the way for continuing sanitation work. A formal visit to the WATSAN office at the Muri Meeting House by NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Murray McCully on Friday the 9th August culminated in the announcement that NZ would continue financial support for sanitation improvements, with a further $10 million in grant funding to be provided over the next four years.
The European Union has also come to the fore to provide substantial financial input, committing around $4 million in funding to the sanitation sector. This, along with the NZ funds will enable WATSAN to continue with sanitation upgrades to over 1,000 onsite sanitation systems across the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki over a 4-5 year period. It is likely that a similar approach will be utilised across the remainder of the Cook Islands.
Acting WATSAN Unit manager Tekao Herrmann said that this work will lead to substantial benefits for the health of the people and the ecosystems of the islands, and therefore to the ongoing economic development and security of the country.
Herrmann also notes that the success of the WMI programme is thanks to the hard work of WATSAN and MOIP staff and management, the Development Coordination Division of Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, Public Health, the contractors who conducted physical works, the people of Muri and Avana, and of course New Zealand and Australia for making the project possible through their funding.