The plan was revealed in CI News on Monday, but Glassie says Tepaki announced it without first seeking the permission and the views of the people of Atiu, in particular the Atiu Island Council and the island’s landowners.
“What makes him think that we will allow such developments without talking to us first?”
“We want Atiu to stay green, natural and unspoilt. We support developments, but on a scale that suit us, and not at the demand of others.
“We have been on this hulaalaa with Tim before.”
Tepaki’s plan for the island, which has a population of less 500, involves setting up a 50-unit resort with a mix of four star, five star and six-star luxury accommodation – the latter including a butler service.
Though the Atiu project was announced in the midst of ongoing political upheaval in the Cook Islands, Tepaki says the situation will have a minimal impact on Merchant of Paradise’s comprehensive development plan (CDP) project, aimed at developing a number of islands in the northern and southern group.
“Political instability impacts on developments looking for external funding, but fortunately CDP is not a public sector activity and the collateral political impact should be minimal,” he said.
Tepaki says he is more concerned about the impact on the Cook Islands’ “safe haven” status as a tourist destination.
“Having politicians running around toting “smoking guns” and behaving in what has been described as a ‘treasonous’ manner is not a good look.
“Fortunately Minister Mark Brown handled this political event in a firm and mature manner and let’s hope the impact on our tourism lifeline is minimal.
“I believe Brown has come of age.”
Merchant of Paradise representatives recently met with outer islands mayors hoping to secure approval in principle for their plans before proceeding to “documentation phase,” Tepaki says.
“This involves visiting the islands to be developed, choosing
land to be developed and preparing development documentation, but it seems the mayors’ preference is for MOP to visit and present the project to all involved, which is fair enough.
“Rather than visit and talk, MOP is now completing generic plans and costing and propose to visit with generic financial outcomes in hand, so all can make informed decisions and select lands to be developed.”
Tepaki says documentation will be completed by end of July and MOP representatives will visit the islands in August.