And a company that specialises in refurbishing emergency service vehicles throughout the Pacific Islands says the airport’s fleet is the best in the entire region.
Delivered by cargo ship the Imua II just over a week ago, the 29-tonne fire engine looked as good as new after its year-long refurbishment, which cost the Airport Authority $200,000.
For an idea of the expenses incurred in maintaining these vehicles, even just a single new tyre costs $6000 – or $36,000 for a full six-tyre set.
The refurbishment involved a complete overhaul, with the truck being stripped right down to its chassis and rebuilt again.
“Everything is done,” said Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata. “The engine, electrics, the paintwork, the rust – every part on it is stripped down. It’s almost new again.”
Ngamata estimated the age of the newly refurbished fire truck at about 13 years and said they usually send each vehicle to New Zealand every 10 years or so for refurbishing.
“After we refurbish it, it’ll give us another 13 to 15 years,” Ngamata said. “We bought this for $830,000 or thereabouts – these are $1.2million if you buy them new.”
The truck’s refurbishment was carried out by New Zealand company Prestige Diesel & Marine Aviation Fire Services, who are based in Otahuhu, South Auckland.
This is the third fire engine from Rarotonga Airport that they have refurbished, having taken on the first one 12 years ago. They are also currently refurbishing an engine from Aitutaki.
While it comes with a hefty price tag, having the fire trucks regularly refurbished is well worth it, says Prestige managing director Jeff Edwards.
“The refurb is normally less than half the cost of a new one, and you’re going to sort of double the life of the truck,” said Edwards. “And this truck’s still in pretty good condition for its age.”
Edwards’ company carries out refurbishment work on emergency service vehicles throughout the Pacific Islands – including Samoa, Fiji, Niue, Vanuatu and Tonga – and he says the job comes with its own particular challenges.
“The biggest trouble we have in the islands is corrosion – corrosion kills,” he says.
“Electrical is another big issue up here, with the humidity – you get a lot of corrosion on connections, so you need new switches and stuff like that.”
That said, Edwards praised the Airport Authority’s maintenance schedule for their fire trucks.
“That’s one good thing with the Cook Islands,” he said. “Joe and that have spent the money and done them, and they’ve got a good fleet – you’d have the best fleet in the Pacific. Best-maintained out of everybody.”
Having arrived in the Cook Islands last Tuesday to help complete testing on the newly refurbished vehicle to check that it meets all the required standards – which it did – Edwards headed back to New Zealand on Friday.