“We have been frustrated over the past few years, because of obstacles to the project,” he said, but through the concerted efforts of the Infrastructure ministry, the island’s administration and his office the project was underway.
Glassie said last week he was on Atiu and had been allowed to fire the first explosives to break up rock to be used to improve the airport’s 1100-metre coral runway.
“It brought a lot of huge boulders to the surface. Then there were more explosives to reduce the size of the rocks from the quarry by the airport.
As a result of the explosives there’s about 10,000 cubic metres of rocks ready to be crushed.
“The second phase of the programme is to start bringing those huge boulders down to a more acceptable size so they can be ready for crushing.”
Glassie said he understood it would take about a month to get enough rocks ready for the crushing plant.
Running for seven hours a day, the crusher is capable of producing almost 300 cubic metres of mixed aggregates a day.
“It’s good to know the positive efforts of some of the local contractors in maintaining the crusher and now everyone is very inspired to get the Atiu project going.
“Not only to improve the airport, which will take several months, but also the water works and the road to the village.”
Glassie said: “Things are very exciting for us on the island of Atiu and people are seeing it.”
The minister said he needed to acknowledge those who were very active in the project, including his “very pro-active” chief executive, Mann Unuia, and staff at ICI. He also had a special word for the man at the rock face – the contractor Terepaii Ariihe.
“He is more or less working on project single-handedly.”
The minister said he was pleased with the new “spirit of co-operation to make sure things run smoothly”.
Once the runway’s surface is ready the government will move to seal it with either normal seal or concrete.
He said the rationale behind the whole project is that Atiu is now being targeted to being the next tourist destination in the Cook Islands, next to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
The minister added the improvement and sealing of the airport will give Atiu opportunity to bring more tourists to the island, but also open the way for more private-sector development.
That would include improving and increasing accommodation on Atiu.
The minister said: “It can provide a model for other islands to improve themselves ... in terms of economic growth and development.
“The new runway will allow us to increase traffic and tourists to Atiu by using bigger planes.”
The other spinoff, Glassie said, was better infrastructure would allow people on the island to grow more food for themselves and Rarotonga.
“We have 130,000 tourists coming to the Cook Islands and we spend a lot of money buying food.
“So, if we can start growing our own food and meat and supply the main market in Rarotonga, then development is going in the right direction.
“Having this airport in place and the road to the plantation improved – as well as with water there being properly conserved and distributed – will be important developments for the island of Atiu.”