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Letters: Original EIA for Vaimaanga road diversion outdated and irrelevant

Tuesday 14 November 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in


Letters: Original EIA for  Vaimaanga road diversion outdated and irrelevant

Dear Editor, Mr. Tim Arnold’s response to concerns around the redirection of the road around the so-called Sheraton site in Wednesday’s paper (Lawyer warns against interference, Sheraton road relocation approval stands: Arnold, Cook Islands News, November 8) comes across as heavy handed. From what I’ve read and heard, the facts of the matter would appear to be:

1. There have been a significant number of concerns raised in social media and local news media around what seems to be an intention to redirect the iconic ‘ring road’ of Rarotonga around the back of the site - for a variety of reasons. These have included: safety and emergency response concerns; the substantial public costs of the extensive foreshore protection and investments in road and bridge upgrades adjacent to the site; and the fact that the material circumstances around the supposed necessity to divert the road have changed and now no longer exist (i.e. as far as we know, the property is no longer being marketed as a premium 5 star accommodation justifying exclusive beach access as per the original intent).

2. It’s not clear how much public consultation was done by the Government originally to determine the public appetite for the road diversion (and I suspect not a lot), but it would seem only reasonable that the public is given some sort of explanation rather than ultimatums and stonewalling (excuse the pun) that they are currently getting, given its their money which has been invested in these public assets (road/bridges/utilities) and the foreshore protection around this area to date.

3. In short, we are seeing concerns being voiced in the media about this intention, if in fact there actually is an intention, because with all due respect, I cannot recall hearing from either Pa Ariki, or the new developer Chris Vaile as to what their intention actually is now, irrespective of what the original agreement once said. It seems we've only heard noise from Mr. Arnold so far.

I’m sure it would be worth hearing from both Chris and Pa Ariki, given these concerns from the public, to confirm whether indeed it is absolutely necessary to divert the road at all, or whether this is ‘much ado about nothing’. I am truly hoping, as many others are, that it’s the latter.

Meitaki maata,

Josh Mitchell


Just re-reading the Cook Islands News headline of “NES to seek Crown Law advice on ‘new’ EIA for Sheraton ring road” Question – Why? NES has an Environment Act from 2003, which clearly sets out their rules and regulations. These have been the NES guidelines for the last 20 odd years, so why are they now running for cover? Their own “Environment Significance Declaration and Permit” form clearly states … “any group or organisation that intends to carry out any activity that may impact the environment MUST fill out this declaration…”  Please take note of the “must”. 

Have the Vaimaanga site developers been required to do this? Claims by the developer’s lawyer that the original EIA from way back is still valid is just nonsense. Times, environmental requirements and circumstances have all changed radically in the last 40 odd years, so an original EIA can’t possibly have any real relevance today.

To go even further in this NES document, which has a Yes, No, Unsure answer scale … under general information Section A #8 iii) Will this development take place within 30 metres of the defined foreshore area? Answer – Yes. 8 (iii) Will this development take place between the defined foreshore and the reef? Answer – Yes. 8 (x) Take place in or affect public and recreation areas or access to those areas? Answer – Yes. Then let’s proceed to Section D. Will the ongoing operation of the proposed activity D3 (i) Disrupt households and existing businesses in the area? Answer – Yes. D3 (ii) Potentially disturb people’s lifestyles or usual practices in the community or neighbourhood? Answer – Yes.  D3 (iv) Create traffic detours, temporarily restrict access, etc? Answer – Yes.  Further on to section D4 – Could the activity create additional impacts on the country’s #iv) Emergency services, fire, ambulance, cyclone shelters)? Answer – Yes.  #vi Community facilities? Answer – Yes.

This is so straightforward, that it really begs the question as to why NES would even look for advice from Crown Law… it would seem that NES is trying to do a Jonah Lomu style sidestep, and are not prepared to go forward and act on their own Environmental Act.

With all those yes answers above, surely NES must take their own initiative, and make an EIA a MUST requirement.

(Name and address supplied)