So I thought I would jump into the fray with my 10 cents’ worth. Having read through the information available, it has come very clear that the submarine cable is a joint venture with our neighbours in the region. French Polynesia, Samoa and Niue.
We are not doing this alone. In fact, I understand that we are but a side cable (called a spur), that connects to the main cable linking Tahiti and Samoa. Other spurs will link Niue and Bora Bora to the main cable.
The New Zealand government has supported this project and provided grant funding to assist the Cook Islands and Niue in meeting our financial commitments. A loan with the Asian Development Bank has been secured to meet the balance of our financial commitments. Bidding for the supply of the submarine cable system closed in mid-March and I assume that these bids are being assessed. All this information is available online.
Clearly the governments of Samoa and French Polynesia have determined that the cable is in their best interests and are investing their resources into it accordingly. I understand that a business case has been done through the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the Manatua cable and its viability for the Cook Islands. The New Zealand government have obviously considered the project has its merits, otherwise they would not be supporting it to the tune of some $15 million.
The Asian Development Bank has some very stringent processes and steps that need to be met before they will approve a loan of this nature. So they, too, have determined that the project is sound and approved loan financing. Both have done their due diligence and responded accordingly.
I also recall, consultations with government agencies, the private sector, traditional leaders and non-government organisations occurring in April 2016 to determine the desirability of this project proceeding. From these consultations, the social and environment safeguards and plan was developed.
Our government has not gone into this project blindly. It has been a collaborative approach with our regional partners which has required a series of consultations between our governments. This has involved receiving advice from qualified consultants provided by the Asian Development Bank and the New Zealand government.
Our government has arrived at a decision that the submarine cable is in our best interests and is able to become a part of the project through support from our partners. I am no whizz with numbers, but it seems to me that through this support, we are able to improve our telecommunications capacity at the least possible cost.
The question needs to be asked, should we sit idly by as French Polynesia to our east and Samoa to our west strive to make improvements to their telecommunications and connectivity?
Can we afford to be left behind? Both Samoa and French Polynesia have major investments in submarine cables.
The Tui Samoa cable links Samoa to Fiji, Vanua Levu and Wallis and Futuna and onwards through the Southern Cross cable. The Honotua cable links Tahiti to Hawaii. Yet they want to be part of Manatua and I am sure that they too have done their business cases. In the Cook Islands, we are linked to nowhere! We constantly complain about the quality of our internet connectivity and Manatua presents a shared solution.
Our government’s decision to become a part of the Manatua Cable has my full support. I believe working together with Tahiti, Samoa and Niue is the right approach. I will not go into any detail about the benefits because they are quite obvious.
I appreciate Political Observer’s perspective. I just thought I would throw my own perspective out there.
(Name and address supplied)