Instead, the company is now looking at building new 4 to 6-star resort on a 14-acre site in Titikaveka, says developer Tim Tepaki.
While declining to specify the location of the new site, he said any plans involving Vaimaanga were now “off the table”.
Tepaki, who has previously been keen to redevelop the Sheraton land using the existing buildings, says building a new resort from scratch at Titikaveka will be an easier and more viable option.
“It will be a new project, which is a lot better and easier than a makeover project.”
A resort on Rarotonga is necessary to act as a “feeder” resort to fuel Merchant of Paradise’s ambitious development plan, which Tepaki claims has the potential to transform the fortunes of the outer islands.
The ambitious plans include quality resorts, a fishing base on Penryhn and even an international golf course on Atiu.
While most of the outer islands now have “no economy to speak of”, he believes that with the help of Merchant of Paradise’s “Paradise Prosperity Plan”, financed with up to $300 million of Chinese money, those islands will be able to benefit from the same tourism bonanza that has fueled growth on Rarotonga and Aitutaki Tepaki said Vaimaanga landowner Pa Ariki’s lawyer, Tim Arnold, had told him his client preferred to wait until a government was formed before deciding on the successful tender. The announcement of a new government is waiting on the outcome of a number of electoral petitions, and it could be another month or two before all of them are heard in court.
“And that doesn’t fit our agenda,” Tepaki said.
Asked if noncompliance was also an issue, given that he had published the Merchant of Paradise offer for Vaimaanga before the successful tender had been decided, Tepaki said the tender document MOP had received had been an offer specifying 1.5 per cent turnover for ground rent and nothing else.
What MOP had offered in return was an agreement to pay a percentage of turnover as specified, plus $2.3 million in goodwill “upfront shares” that had the potential to yield around $7.7 million a year.
He said the tendering process had not been a true open tender but an exchange of offerings, “a negotiation if you will”.
Tepaki said he regretted having to abort the Vaimaanga project as he had a long association with the site.
When he had developed the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort many years ago he had met with Sir Tom Davis and the late Pa Terito Ariki. Pa Ariki had been clear that the purpose of developing Vaimaanga was to develop a “Takitumu castle” without her people having to fundraise, and for ancestral landowners to benefit from the development of a resort.
Tepaki said he had taken on redevelopment of the Sheraton site in 2005 with those objectives in mind. The first objective had been delivered, pointing out that Pa Ariki’s “castle” near the CICC church at Ngatangiia, had been built without the Takitumu people having to raise money.
“But sadly, I was prevented from delivering the bounty of development for them and for that, I apologise to the people of Takitumu.”
Tepaki told CI News another reason for giving up on the Vaimaanga site was that he had always intended to roll out the Paradise Prosperity Plan project while 2,000 Cook Islanders were visiting Rarotonga for Te Maeva Nui.
He said he chartered an aircraft and visited the Pa Enua islands in 2007, meeting with landowners whose properties he had earmarked for future development. Many of them now wanted to catch up with him to discuss the Paradise Prosperity Plan, he added.
“They will be on the island next week and we will be talking.”