LEGAL AND INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTHENING OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN THE COOK ISLANDS
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
January 2006 - September 2006
In February 2005, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) initiated the "Legal and Institutional Strengthening of Environmental Management” Technical Assistance (TA) project in the Cook Islands (ADB TA 4273-COO). The objectives of this project were to provide advice and assistance to the Government of the Cook Islands in the process of developing:
effective regulations and institutional reforms to implement the Environment Act 2003;
a plan for improved inter-agency and institutional coordination for effective environmental management;
revisions to sectoral legislation to ensure overall coherence with the Environmental Act 2003 and Regulations and uniformity with the plan for improved institutional coordination; thereby improving environmental quality within the Cook Islands.
After winning an international competitive bidding process, de Romilly & de Romilly Limited was retained to implement this US$350,000 technical assistance project by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of the Cook Islands. Our company fielded an inter-disciplinary team, comprising two international experts and 4 national experts, who undertook the following:
1. Strengthening Legal and Institutional Framework
A comprehensive policy, legal and institutional review was undertaken through a broad-based consultative process with key stakeholders and the public to develop an appropriate policy and regulatory structure for sustainable environmental management. The review included a comprehensive evaluation of jurisdictional issues, capacities and responsibilities of key agencies to facilitate the development of an appropriate regulatory and administrative structure for environmental management of priority sectors (coastal zone, tourism, economic development). The results of the review was presented in four volumes, namely:
Volume 1 – Review of Legal and Institutional Frameworks
- summarizing existing policy, legal and institutional frameworks for environmental management, identifying gaps, deficiencies and overlaps, and outlining possible options for improvement.
Volume 2 – Institutional Profiles
- summarizing the functions, structure, staffing, legal mandate, role in environmental management, relevant legislation, and suggestions for improving the role in environmental management of over 30 public sector agencies, traditional customary authorities, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Handbook on Permits and Approvals
- designed as a Users Guide to the permitting and approval process of nine regulatory agencies and institutions involved in environmental management and the management of natural resources, and providing and outline of key steps in the various permitting processes as administered by these organisations.
Handbook of Multilateral Environmental Agreements
- summarizing the thirty-five international and regional environmental agreements tto which the Cook Islands is a signatory, outlining the objectives abd benefits of each agreement, highlighting country requirements for effective implementation of the agreements,and the status of implementation.
The review resulted in the development and drafting, through a broad-based consultative process, of 14 legislative instruments for, amongst other matters, environmental impact assessments, development planning, waste and pollution management; sewage and waste-water management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental management in Outer Islands.
The new legal frameworks serve to implement requirements under various international environmental conventions including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Montreal Protocol, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Basel Convention on the Trans-Boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal; the Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (Waigani Convention); the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
2. Legislation/Regulations for Water Resources Management
The project team undertook a series of consultations with land owners in the Takuvaeni area convened by the National Environment Service (NES) to develop and finalize regulations for the management of this water catchment area which serves the main populated areas of Rarotonga. Several community meetings were convened to review and revise the draft regulations which was finally endorsed at a meeting with land owners convened by the Land Court in April 2006.TheFinal draft of this Regulation was presented to stakeholders at the Final National Consultative Workshop held on the 6th and 7th June 2006. Stakeholders at the Final National Consultative Workshop urged that the priority regulations and Bylaws be passed into law as soon as possible.
Thereafter, this Regulation was submitted to Crown Law for review and submission to Executive Council. The Environment (Takuvaine Water Catchment) Regulations 2006 was promulgated mid-way through the project, and presented a significant early milestone in the improvement of the regulatory framework for environmental management in the Cook Islands.
Additionally, meetings were convened with representatives from the National Environment Service (NES) and the Director of Water Works in the Ministry of Works to initiate the development of a legal framework for the management of water resources. During the final in-country mission by the Team Leader a draft of the proposed water resources management legislation (see Water Resources Management Bill 2006) was developed and reviewed with the National Environment Service (NES), the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of works, and the Director of Water Works in the Ministry of Works.
This framework for the legislation was presented by the Director of Water Works at the Final National Consultative Workshop held on the 6th and 7th June 2006, where stakeholders indicated strong support for a broad-based consultative process to review and finalize the proposed legislation. A request was presented to the ADB at the Tri-Partite Meeting for follow-on assistance to assist in the development and finalisation of this much-needed legislation, and in capacity development for the new Department of Water Resources that is to be established under the proposed legislation.
3. Strengthening of Environmental Monitoring/Enforcement Capacities and Training in Environmental Management
The project team undertook a comprehensive “Training Needs Assessment”amongst agencies involved in environmental management to identify training needs amongst those individuals and agencies that will be primarily responsible for implementing and enforcing the new regulatory framework. This assessment was summarized in:
Volume 4 – Awareness and Education
– identifies needs for additional specialized training in environmental management in order to effectively implement and enforce the newly established Regulatory framework for improved detailed training program was developed and presented which addressed gaps between skills that were immediately needed/available to implement the priority regulations and Bylaws developed under the TA. With input from the project team and the National Environment Services, the Team Leader and the Environmental Education and Training Specialist prepared training modules and environmental education materials for professional training, capacity building, and environmental enforcement awareness-raising, and undertake pilot training activities. The program was focused largely on on-the-job enforcement training for all staff of the NES Enforcement Division, and comprised the following modules:
Receiving a Report;
Investigation a Crime Scene;
Preparing a File for Court;
The Senior Crown Prosecutor from Crown Law assisted in the training program, which was in the form of on-the-job training centered on a staged offence, crime scene investigation and mock trial. A file was prepared for Court, and a mock trial was convened in the High Court presided over by a Justice of the Peace, with Prosecutor and Defense Council appearing.
The enforcement training materials have been summarized in the Enforcement Handbook which includes the materials generated from the staged offence and mock trial. It is noted that the Senior Crown Prosecutor, in his summation at the completion of the training program, commended the NES staff for the high quality of the Court File which “was as good a quality as any received from the Police”.
Additionally, a series of on-the-job-training sessions were held with staff from the National Environment Service during the third and fourth in-country missions by the Team Leader to develop and strengthen the national capacity to develop and draft legislation that would give legal effect to international conventions and agreements signed by the Cook Islands. As a consequence of these training sessions, and as a testament to the improved in-house capacity within the NES, these staff members developed and drafted the following:
Framework for a Biodiversity Prospecting Bill;
Framework for a Trade in Endangered Species Bill;
Framework for a Ozone Depleting Substances Bill;
Framework for a Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Bill.
Training in Small and Medium-Sized Waste Water Treatment Design, Installation, Maintenance and Inspection
A request was submitted to the ADB to use uncommitted funds under the TA to support additional training under the Public Health (Sewage) Regulations 2006, and for the Outer Islands. Subsequently, a series of training sessions with the Outer Islands Councils, Environment Authorities, Environment Officers and other enforcement officers were convened during the final in-country mission by the Team Leader and the Environmental Education Specialist. The training program for the Outer islands, which was presented by members of the NES and Ministry of Health staff, focused on key enforcement requirements of the following:
Environment (Permits and Consents) Regulations 2006;
Public Health (Sewage) Regulations 2006.
Finally, with support received from a New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) project, a comprehensive training program was convened on the Public Health (Sewage) Regulations 2006.