Tonight I wish to pay my particular respects to our Pacific neighbour Kiribati and President Anote Tong for taking such a strong stance on ocean stewardship. Without your strong resolve and the support of organisations such as Conservation International, we would not be here celebrating the Pacific Oceanscape.
As outlined in the Framework for the Pacific Oceanscape, our ocean unites and divides, connects and separates, sustains and threatens our very survival. As Pacific people we do not need convincing of the fact that our ocean influences every aspect of our lives.
Ocean conservation is not a new concept to us in the Pacific. We have been born with an ingrained sense of understanding that we are, but the guardians of our natural environment including our ocean. This is our mana where mana means our legacy handed down through the generations. We have inherited our great Moana Nui o Kiva and we must feel the mana the honour of being its stewards.
Unfortunately, we have over time forgotten this mana that we possess the mana which is our respect for our ocean and have misused our ocean for our own selfish purposes through overharvesting and polluting.
Last month I had the pleasure and honour of greetig our Pacific fleet of vaka that sailed across our Pacific Ocean to San Francisco. I can tell you that my heart swelled ewith pride as I witnessed our very own Pacific sons and daughters arrive on the vaka after sailing in some very trying conditions just as our ancestors have done centuries ago.
This modern day voyage by our Pacific sons and daughters symbolises a rekindling of our mana with ocean. Their voyage was to send a message to the rest of the world. A message that we must reclaim the mana of respect for our ocean. A message to tell us and the rest of the world to stop polluting, depleting and degrading our ocean. A message that reaffirms the connection of our very survival with our ocean.
This voyage like the vaka, symbolises hope and proof that we still have in us our mana that connects us with the ocean. Likewise the Pacific Oceanscape presents us with a great opportunty to reassert our mana our authority, our power, our respect, our honour and reclaim our inheritance our Moana Nui o Kiva.
This is the vaerua the spirit behind the wish of the Cook Islands to declare approximately half of our Exclusive Economic Zone as a Marine Park.
We have conducted initial public consultations with our communities to gauge their opinions on the proposed Marine Park and are very pleased that there has been overwhelming support.
We are now in the process of establishing a Steering Committee which will conduct more in-depth community consultations and work through the finer details of establishing the Cook Islands Marine Park.
Like Kiribati, we are fortunate and grateful to have the support from Conservation International and our very own SPREP.
I would also like to acknowledge the Cook Islands very own Kevin Iro who has been instrumental in lobbying government to establish the Cook Islands Marine Park.
He has pushed for the Marine Park with the same tenacity that he used when playing rugby league for the Kiwis.
On that note I wish to assure that in 2012, the Cook Islands will designate a significant part of its ocean as a Cook Islands Marine Park. We will join the Pacific Oceanscape.
We will reclaim our mana that mana which distinguishes us as a people and as a nation the mana of being the guardians of our share of the Moana Nui o Kiva.