28 June 2019: Te Vai Ora Maori - Clean, Safe Water Rarotonga, Release

Clean, Safe Water without chemicals.

28 June 2019: Te Vai Ora Maori - Clean, Safe Water Rarotonga, Release.
Te Vai Ora Maori.

Contact: Te Vai Ora Maori Executive (Facebook Group).

Masthead The water on Rarotonga is collected from elevated mountain streams and has been piped to homes with only coarse filtration as the treatment method for nearly 60 years. Along with improved filtration, the new Te Mato Vai treatment system proposes to add chemicals to improve clarity and disinfect, however locals question the need, and impacts of chemical-use.


Published 28 June 2019. Updated 4 July 2019.


We all want clean, safe water, but adding chemicals is not the solution.

Our government has told us we need to add chlorine because our water is ‘bad’. But we’re not sick. Our Vairakau Maori practitioners are clear: chemicals are not for human consumption.

World-wide, researchers are questioning the impact of chlorine on our health — on digestion, immunity, and fertility. [ 1 ] Chemicals are absorbed rapidly through the skin and lungs [ 2 ], and chlorine is more toxic at warmer temperatures. The long-term risks include an increase in birth defects and cancer. These long term risks will be inherited by our children.

According to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine: 13 percent to 93 percent higher for rectal cancer and around 53 percent higher for colon and bladder cancer. [ 3 ].
Note: The above cancer statistics were updated with the full reference 4 July 2019; in response to an editorial by Cook Islands News discrediting cancer concerns.

Here in Rarotonga less than 1% is used for drinking [ 4 ], but all of our water supply will be chlorinated which will affect our land, waterways and our lagoon. We‘ve been told ‘it’s only a small amount of chlorine’. But that ‘small amount’ is enough to kill. And chlorine doesn’t just kill bacteria, it’s strong enough to kill our tuna, our koura vai.[ 5 ]

Broken pipes leak into our streams, wetlands, lagoon and ocean [ 6 ]. We are the custodians of these fragile ecosystems and the world we pass on to our children. Chlorine kills the microbes that keep plants healthy. [ 7 ] That means less local fruit-and-vege and more pesticides. Organic export crops cannot be irrigated with toxic chemicals, this may affect our vanilla and noni growers.

Our source water is good. It comes from the sky. It is channelled into valley streams and collected at elevated intakes. Te Mato Vai have built new filters, new intake tanks, and a new water main. It’s a new system to keep our water clean. So, our water (which hasn’t made us sick), will be even cleaner; we don’t need chlorine.

We have water stations. Our Health Ministry tests the water; and we’re reminded to ‘fix the filters’ [ 8 ]. Stations will be easier to run when there is clean water flowing through the pipes, and our tap water will be cleaner with the new system.

We’ve listened to the experts, and they’ve told us alot about chlorine, but they haven’t told us everything.

We said ‘no’ to chlorine in 2009, ‘no’ in 2014, and ‘no’ this year at the disinfection presentations [ 9 ] [ 10 ]. Government is not listening to our people [ 11 ], and has said it will make the ‘hard decisions’.[ 12 ]

Christchurch, Canada, Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium and others do not use chlorine in their water. [ 13 ] Our people, our leaders, Koutu Nui, Aronga Mana, Vairakau Maori do not want chlorine in our water. [ 14 ]

Te Vai Ora Maori is about giving voice to the community. All of us are responsible for the health of our people and the health of our island. For today and for future generations.

Our government has not thought hard enough about the impacts — the damage that will be done by adding chemicals to our water. There are alternatives. We can have clean and safe water without chlorination. We think it’s time that our government started listening to the people.

We want to hear from you. We will share what we know about our water, our island and how we can all have clean, safe water.


Te Vai Ora Maori - Clean, Safe Water Rarotonga Committee Members: Anna Rasmussen, Tere Carr, Teariki and Jackie Rongo, Justine Flanagan, Andy Kirkwood, Paul Allsworth, Philip Nicholas, Robert Wigmore, Donna Smith, Teariki Matenga. Join the Te Vai Ora Maori Facebook Group.


References and Further Reading


See also


Published 28 June 2019. Updated: 4 July 2019.


© 2011–24 Island Booth Information Design (IBID), PO Box 020 Muri, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.