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Govt’s plans ambitious, says Brown

Thursday June 29, 2017 Written by Published in Politics
The entire Cook Islands parliament takes time out from the House to line up for an offi cial photograph. 17062709 The entire Cook Islands parliament takes time out from the House to line up for an offi cial photograph. 17062709

The Cook Islands Party government has embarked on an ambitious capital plan in the proposed 2017/18 Budget, says Finance minister Mark Brown.

 

Building good quality roads, increasing access to clean water, improving accessibility to high-quality internet and converting to renewable energy are some of the capital plans highlighted in the Budget.

Brown said although the costs were high, the benefits will be great.

It is not about spending but more about investing in assets crucial to the future prosperity of the Cook Islands, he added.

Leading the government’s capital expenditure in the 2017/18 financial year is the $2.8 million in capital funding to extend the national renewable energy plans to the island of Aitutaki.

Brown said this was part of their target of achieving 100 per cent conversion to renewable energy sources by 2020.

The Northern Group islands achieved conversion to renewable energy in 2015 with support from the New Zealand government and the Southern Group islands (excluding Aitutaki) are on track to be completed this year.

“It is expected that this project will reduce the island’s diesel consumption by up to 245,000 litres a year and support at least 24 per cent of energy consumption from renewable energy sources,” Brown said while tabling the Budget in Parliament.

“The introduction of renewable energy is one more way in which this government is decreasing the cost of living for our people.”

The government is also focusing on two big water projects, Te Mato Vai and Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai, in the 2017/18 Budget.

The stage one of the Te Mato Vai was completed last year and the second stage will be continued in 2017/18 financial year.

Brown said the government will continue to work towards completing the upgrade of the water supply system on Rarotonga to achieve its target of delivering potable water reliably to all properties connected to the existing water supply network.

In stage two, the Te Mato Vai project will move to the refurbishment of intakes and provision of storage, filtration and trunk mains.

The government will also take steps towards addressing the root causes of the algae outbreak in late 2016 which tarnished the beauty of the Muri lagoon.

This outbreak, Brown said, highlighted the need for waste disposal and treatment to ensure the water quality of the local environment.

“In response, this government is going to implement Me Te Vai Ki Te Vai, our water and sanitation programme in 2017/18.

“This project will commence with the installation of a reticulation system in Muri/Avana. Without work being undertaken in this area, there is a real risk to our tourism industry.

“Once this is complete, the government will embark on installing a sanitation reticulation system across the remainder of Rarotonga.”

Brown stated the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai was a huge project and would be spread over the next five to seven years in order for the government to remain fiscally responsible. 

Funds to help in the completion of the projects at Tereora College and Apii Nikao that are in the process of being upgraded is also part of the government’s capital expenditure plan for 2017/18. 

“High-quality buildings need to be partnered with access to the best technologies so that our children, our future, are able to learn and achieve,” Brown said.

Meanwhile Brown announced the government will be finalising a loan with the Asian Development Bank in the coming six months for funds to support the Cook Islands government’s contribution towards the Manatua Polynesian Connectivity Project.

“This initiative will ensure faster, more reliable and affordable broadband connections,” he said.

“This project will support the government’s priority for improved connectivity, representing a significant enabler for economic growth, social development and contact with families and the world abroad.”