Indigenous | Diving

Te Arawa to help Rarotonga tackle starfish outbreak harming reefs

A project that could see Te Arawa helping Rarotonga with a starfish outbreak jeopardising its coral reef, has just been given a financial boost by Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust.

Rarotonga-based Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau has been tackling the crown-of-thorns starfish, or taramea outbreak, with scuba divers removing the invasive species from the reef by hand.

Te Arawa Taiohi Toa Trust now hopes to train its own divers to assist Rarotonga and control other invasive species in Te Arawa lakes.

Harina Rupapera (Ngāti Rangitihi, Te Arawa) has been on one of Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust’s Tonganui scholarships that supports the kaupapa. She says the trust hopes to reconnect whānau to their whakapapa through this joint venture, as well as helping out with the starfish problem.

Te Arawa become the stars in helping Rarotonga's starfish problem. 

'Contribute and learn'

“We have a responsibility here for our freshwater and our marine spaces, and it’s a real good opportunity to educate our uri here and take them over to Rarotonga to contribute and learn at the same time.”

Harina says that due to climate change, the species have moved along the reefs in Rarotonga and caused havoc. The time it takes to reverse the damage that they do can take even longer. Many outbreaks have happened, the current one having started in 2019 – and is continuing today.

“Part of our aspiration is not just learning who we are and where we come from, it’s what we’re responsible for. All of our pepeha in Te Arawa come with responsibility to give back and protect our spaces and our stories.

“We aim to educate our young people in every aspect of biosecurity, not just our kōrero tuku iho pūrākau but also skills to employment and job opportunity.

“Kaitakitanga is our main focus.”