Cook Islands

Infrastructure management to support economic growth

Tepai Taraare2

Mathew Tepai and David Taraare outside the Far North District Council offices.

The Cook Islands’ strong economic performance has them set to graduate from developing country status with a booming tourism sector playing a significant role in this growth. Last year the economy grew 5% marking the sixth straight year of economic expansion. This growth can also create significant pressures on public infrastructure, which Infrastructure Cook Islands are eager to address proactively.

Pacific TA experts have been assisting Infrastructure Cook Islands since last year, beginning with an initial scoping visit in September 2017. The outcome of this work is an ongoing programme of technical assistance, which provides for collaboration between New Zealand and the Cook Islands to manage and maintain vital infrastructure such as landfills, bridges, and roads. 

Supporting workforce development is also part of the PacificTA programme with ICI. Under the programme roading officials from ICI have had short term placements in the Far North.


Extending the lifespan of landfills

Compaction is a key theme for landfills throughout the Pacific as it becomes increasingly difficult to acquire new land for a landfill.  A growing economy sector can strain landfill capacity so, with this in mind, PacificTA advisors worked with their ICI counterparts to complete an assessment of landfill capacity on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. 

Cooks Landfill2Their assessment concluded that Aituaki landfill was adequate but Rarotonga’s required careful management to extend the life of the landfill as long as possible. The assessment found that Rarotonga could achieve this through improving compaction rates and some small changes to operating procedures such as removing tyres from the landfill.

Because of these enhancements, the existing landfill could continue to meet growing demand well beyond its original 2020 lifespan. Better management of the landfill asset would also mean Rarotonga could defer the need for capital expenditure for replacement waste disposal facilities for another 10 years.


Water Storage

The Cook Islands Government is working to strengthen the resilience of the outer islands to climate change. In September 2013 Joanna Saywell, from Porirua City Council, worked with Cook Island representatives to identify the best approach to water storage for the outer island community of Atiu.

A United Nations Development Programme set aside funding to provide a 500,000-litre community water tank for the people of Atiu. The community tank is needed to provide emergency water supplies to the islanders in times of drought. The tank will be filled with rainwater collected off the various larger community buildings in the centre of the island.

CI Joanna Saywell

To read the full Cook Islands water storage report, click here.



Anne Lister, Gisborne District Council’s Waste Management Minimisation Officer, was among the first to share expertise with Pacific Island authorities, working alongside authorities in Rarotonga on development of waste education initiatives.

The visit came about after a group from the Cook Islands visited New Zealand on a fact finding mission, including Gisborne’s successful ‘Rethink’ Waste Education Centre. The team from the Cook Islands wanted advice on weather something similar would be suitable for Rarotonga.

Anne travelled to Rarotonga at the end of July 2013 and worked alongside her Cook Islands waste minimisation counterpart, finding out about the islands’ waste management system and visiting various sites.

Rarotonga has already got some excellent initiatives, including separation of waste at the weekly market, but the islands are isolated and a long way from markets for recyclables. The public are very committed to recycling and it was clear why a similar type of education centre to Gisborne’s could work there.

 CI baler for recyclables

To read the full Cook Islands waste education report, click here.

LGNZ continues to work in the Cook Islands and is now working with Infrastructure Cook Islands on infrastructure.