Raiatea & Tahaa islands and lagoon

tahaa-panorama

Located 210 km northwest of Tahiti, Raiatea is one of the Leeward Islands in the Society Islands group. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands at 238 sq. km and had a population of 12,024 in 2012. Encircling the volcanic mountains with their fertile plains and deep valleys lies the fairly narrow coastal plain where most human settlement is located. Mount Tefatoaiti is the island’s highest point at 1017 m and Raiatea lagoon is dotted with motus (coral sand banks). The island is divided into three townships, i.e. Uturoa, Taputapuatea and Tumaraa. Uturoa, the Leeward Islands’ main town, has a deep-water port where large vessels can anchor and berth. Taha’a, its sister island enclosed in the same lagoon as Raiatea, has similar features but spread over 88 sq. km.

Tahaa has a population of 5220 and Mount Ohirii is the highest peak at 590 m.

carte-tahaa-raiatera
Located 210 km northwest of Tahiti, Raiatea is one of the Leeward Islands in the Society Islands group. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands at 238 sq. km and had a population of 12,024 in 2012. Encircling the volcanic mountains with their fertile plains and deep valleys lies the fairly narrow coastal plain where most human settlement is located. Mount Tefatoaiti is the island’s highest point at 1017 m and Raiatea lagoon is dotted with motus (coral sand banks). The island is divided into three townships, i.e. Uturoa, Taputapuatea and Tumaraa. Uturoa, the Leeward Islands’ main town, has a deep-water port where large vessels can anchor and berth. Taha’a, its sister island enclosed in the same lagoon as Raiatea, has similar features but spread over 88 sq. km. Tahaa has a population of 5220 and Mount Ohirii is the highest peak at 590 m.

Environmental description:

On the marine side, it has 10 channels, making for easy access to the ocean and rapid water exchange in the lagoon. The lagoon has a navigable area of 290 sq. km and its deepest point is 55 m. Tahaa and Raiatea have many bays that are often deep and crossed by a road cutting off the now damaged fringing reefs that are, nevertheless, suitable for aquaculture, e.g. prawns bred in enclosures and crabs. There are many motus in the northern part of Tahaa.

The coral ecosystems are still well preserved, particularly the barrier reefs.

On land, there are many rivers, including the navigable Faaroa River, and a large number of suitable sites for developing agriculture. Both islands contain environmentally significant sites with high endemism, including the famous tiare apetahi, an endemic gardenia and the symbol of Raiatea.

Social and economic description:

Raiatea’s economy is dominated by farming for the local market and Bora Bora hotels. Lagoon resources including fish, crustaceans, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and trochus and turbo shells are harvested and pearl farming is a major industry. Raiatea is a hub for marine leisure activities with French Polynesia’s largest yacht charter companies operating from its three marinas. The trade is booming and contributing increasingly to the island’s economic development. The airport with its daily flights to Tahiti and other islands plus the ships calling from Tahiti five times a week make Raiatea a much-visited and busy island.

Tahaa's economy is mainly based on Tahitian vanilla - as its top producer -, copra and subsistence food crops. Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) is also widely grown. Tahaa has no airport but there is a cargo-passenger ship wharf at Tapuamu and there are many smaller wharves around the island.

SWOT Analysis for the Raiatea-Tahaa Site, French Polynesia

Strengths:

-   Lush, quality environment and landscapes (coral gardens & endemic gardenia [tiare apetahi])

-   Rich culture, traditional knowledge about the area and resources passed on to younger generations

-   Navigable lagoon

-   Community & stakeholder involvement

-   Experience with interdepartmental collaboration

-   Buoyant private sector, public-private partnerships

-   Young population

-   Local training facilities

-   Large areas of state land with management opportunities (current action plans)

-   Harbour suitable for large cruise ships

-   Well organised fisheries / quality fish

-   Active associations

Weaknesses:

-   Not much co-ordination between the public and government

-   Lack of overall environmental management

-   Community’s land-sea concept not integrated in plans

-   Lack of resources for waste and sanitation management

-   Densely built-up coastline

-   No spatial information or planning for marine and terrestrial environments; lack of knowledge on lagoon uses and pressures

-   No local resources for environmental management

-   Lack of co-ordination between the public and elected leaders

-   Unstructured marketing of some products

-   Marine resources diminishing / declining humphead wrasse population

-   Relations between local, territorial and French Polynesian government bodies

-   Damaged marine habitats

Opportunities:

-   INTEGRE pilot site

-   Well-developed communications with Papeete and other Leeward Islands

-   Project that unifies the community around water sports tourism

-   World Heritage listing project for the Taputapuatea Marae

-   Project to set up a one-stop shop for economic stakeholder associations

-   Political backing for a maritime area planning scheme

-   Potential for sustainably developing natural resources (bamboo, trochus)

Threats

-   Invasive species in agriculture

-   New shipping lines exerting pressure on resources (overfishing)

-   Increasing nuisances related to economic development

-   Slump in the central economy causing revenue losses in outlying islands; markets for products dwindling

-   Natural and man-made erosion

-   Lagoon areas poorly signposted

-   Waste from sea-based business operations (abandoned oyster beds and pearl lines)

-   Tiare apetahi (gardenia) extinction

-   Increased traffic

-   Climate change

The main challenge on Raiatea-Tahaa is developing economic activities without spoiling the quality of the natural and cultural environment.

The site must, therefore, address the following issues under INTEGRE:

• reducing actual or potential pollution from economic activities, agriculture, fisheries, pearl farming and water sports, etc.;
• developing sustainable economic activities in organic or integrated farming or eco-tourism; and
• setting up area planning and management systems and monitoring business development, particularly in the lagoon.

Actions approved for this site :

  • Contribute to reducing pollution from economic activities :

1. Develop a planning scheme for an agriculture estate so as to limit soil erosion, establish a monitoring programme and awareness campaigns for farmers and schools (SARL Vaihuti Fresh)
2. Support abattoir waste management: design of a low environnemental impact abattoir, staff training (Agriculture department)
3. Set-up a sustainable professional waste management system (Chamber of Commerce)

  • Develop or support sustainable business :

1. Support the construction of a high environmental quality marina in Temaru'a'o (Tumaraa town coucil)
2. Support the business of local products and promote organic farming through the building and fitting out of a « fare » in Tehurui (Tumaraa town council)
3. Set up an eco-tourist industry area on the Tiarere, Tahaa site (Tahaa town council).
4. Set-up communal organic gardens (Uturoa town council).
5. Set up an agricultural, sports and tourism development project (NGO Tamarii Puohine).

  • Draft an integrated management plan for Raiatea-Tahaa lagoon

Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Environment, Fisheries, Culture and Agriculture Departments, Chamber of Commerce.

Contracts for approved actions are being signed. News actions are being developed notably on supporting the pearl-farming local industry. They will be submitted and discussed during a next local committee taking place early December.

Tumaraa town council needs to secure matching funds in order to go ahead with the implementation of the approved actions. SARL Vaihuti Fresh is awaiting confirmation of the lease from the government in order to start their project.

The action led by the Chamber of Commerce related to professional waste management has started with the publication of a tender to undertake the first phase of the action.

The drafting of a management plan has been launched during the last local committee meeting held on October 28th. The team was introduced to the committee as well as the method of work and a preliminary schedule. The methodological support will be provided by GIE Océanide and the day to day facilitation will be undertaken by Patricia Hart, Director of the Chamber of Commerce for the Leeward Islands. The facilitator will be supported by a multidisciplinary team, Fisheries, Agriculture, Environment, Culture departments as well as the INTEGRE coordinator. The fieldwork will begin in January 2015.

 

Pacific territories’ initiative for regional management of the environment

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