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No taxpayer dollars contributed to Sheraton redevelopment

Tuesday 3 May 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Business, National


No taxpayer dollars contributed to Sheraton redevelopment
The Sheraton has been in a state of disrepair for decades. Inset: At one stage several years ago units constructed by an earlier would-be developer were being used as unofficial accommodation. Photo: Al Williams/ 22050203

Prime Minister Mark Brown has confirmed Government will not contribute taxpayer dollars to the proposed Sheraton redevelopment.

Brown, in a written statement on Friday, announced the project following months of speculation.

Cook Islands News has been asking about the site in recent months and last week revealed an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) has not been completed for a project at the Sheraton. A team from NES is evaluating it after a reader expressed concerns about mudflows through the creeks on either end of the property.  

Brown confirmed in a written statement that the redevelopment will be led by local businessman Chris Vaile, managing director of Radun Ltd - a new partnership formed with landowner Pa Ariki.

On Monday, Cook Islands News asked Brown if Government is contributing anything to the project.

“No,” he said.

However, Brown said the project will contribute to the economic development of Cook Islands, offering employment to locals, and improving the landscape.

Brown said was not aware of the estimated cost of the project.

Cook Islands News has previously contacted Vaile and Sam Napa with questions about the site, but has not received a response.

On Monday Brown added, he is “thrilled that this project is finally going to be completed after 30 years of sitting idle”.

“I'm even more thrilled that a local developer is going to be working with the landowners to get this complete."

The development has been plagued by a long run of failures over the past four decades.

In February 2018 rumours circulated in Rarotonga about who would win the rights for the Sheraton project.

At the time it was alleged that a group of Chinese investors had made a tender offer on the site.

It was announced at the end of 2017 that New Zealand’s Mirage Group surrendered its lease.

Mirage Group, which acquired the lease in 2010, abandoned its plans for the rundown resort, joining a long list of those who had tried and failed to complete the development.

The site has been derelict since the Italian-backed project to build a five-star resort there collapsed in the early 1990s, almost bankrupting the country.

The project was 80 per cent complete when it fell apart, but over the years repeated efforts to finish the hotel have foundered.

The site is said to be jinxed after a curse, condemning any business there to fail, was placed on the land during an ownership dispute that led to a shooting there in 1911.

The curse was reintroduced in 1990 at the ceremony to mark the start of work on the hotel when More Rua, a descendent of the shooting victim, entered the site and split the rock bearing a commemorative plaque with a spear. Nowadays the 70ha site has become something of a tourist attraction in its own right, and visitors can tour the area for a small fee and even play paintball there.

The buildings remain standing but have long since lost their fixtures and fittings, and opinion is divided on whether the structures can be salvaged.