30 Aug 2003

Some authorities in Cook Islands not convinced that lagoon is contaminated

9:11 am on 30 August 2003

Villagers on the southern side of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands have formed a committee to look at how toxins found in lagoon waters can be elminated.

An action plan will be presented by the committee to the people of Avana and Muri next week.

This follows findings released last week by a New Zealand scientist.

Tests by ecotoxicologist, Mark Skinner reveal streams in the district contain traces of animal and human waste dozens of times higher than guidelines set by the World Health Organisation.

Official reaction among authorities in the Cook Islands to Mr Skinner's findings has been mixed.

Acting director of Environment Services, Tanya Temata says they will assist the committe with its efforts, including money for awareness programmes.

However, the director of public health, Sister Ngapoko Short denies there being any toxins in Muri lagoon, one of the more heavily developed tourism areas.

She says they'll keep monitoring but that their own tests have not shown any problems.