It’s Kuki Airani (Cook Island) Language Week and I’ve been thinking about the awesome conservation work of former Cook Island and Kiwi rugby league player, the original “Beast” – Kevin Iro.
Kevin played for the Warriors and Manly in the NRL; and Wigan, Leeds and St Helens in the English Superleague. He played 34 tests for the Kiwis and 3 tests for the Cook Islands. He’s one of the greatest players to come out of the Pacific.
But it’s what Kevin has done after league that I really admire. When he retired from footy, he and his wife and six children decided to move to Rarotonga to live. “We thought, ‘what a place to bring children up — a place where they can swim in the lagoon every day,'” Kevin said. “You know, it’s a pretty carefree life.”
But there was something that worried Kevin: because of climate change and building, the coral reefs didn’t look the same as he remembered when visiting as a youngster. The coral had turned a weird white colour and fish populations were dying out. Kevin had to take his children to outer islands just to show them what a truly pure coral reef looked like.
Kevin approached the Cook Island government and proposed an idea for a protected Marine Park. He imagined a park with some parts left completely untouched, and other parts to be used for economic activities like fishing and dive tourism.
Thanks to Kevin and others, the Park was established in 2012 and today covers half of the Cook Islands’ waters, one million square kilometers! It’s amazing the influence that one person with passion can have.