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Nothing in foreseeable future- Ring road around Sheraton on hold: DPM Nicholas

Wednesday 26 June 2024 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Economy, Local, National

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Nothing in foreseeable future- Ring road around Sheraton on hold: DPM Nicholas
A Google Maps image showing the ring road around the abandoned Sheraton hotel, which is now being redeveloped in Vaimaanga.

Deputy Prime Minister Albert Nicholas has shot down the proposed ring road around the old Sheraton hotel in Vaimaanga, saying “nothing could possibly happen in the foreseeable future” for the project.

Nicholas, who is the Minister responsible for Infrastructure and Cook Islands Investment Corporation, was responding to a question posed by Opposition MP Vaitoti Tupa in Parliament last week.

Tupa questioned whether the proposal to construct a ring road around the Sheraton site, which would also involve closing access to the current main road, was still moving forward.

Last year, Cook Islands News reported of plans for an inland diversion of the main road to make way for the redevelopment of the abandoned Sheraton hotel.

> Eight Rarotonga bridges to undergo maintenance: ICI

> Letter: Vaimaanga road closure  

The ring road – an inland diversion of the main road – will provide Rarotonga businessman Chris Vaile, who is spearheading the redevelopment, with direct access to the foreshore and beach area.

In Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nicholas said the project in question is under the management of CIIC.

Nicholas said there was an agreement signed between the Government of the day and the landowners “that a new road be diverted at the back of Sheraton which will encroach on the land of these landowners”.

“But we have to understand this agreement has been made over 10 years ago,” Nicholas said.

“However today whilst discussing this development, there’s nothing concerning the redirection of the road, nothing could possibly happen in the foreseeable future at the moment,” he said.

“The good news for us today, our people, we will still use the current road that we are using today.”
Nicholas said developer Chris Vaile recently built a restaurant near the main road, adding “I don’t think he builds the restaurant there and will divert the road around the back of the Sheraton”.

“You can determine yourself whether this is a good arrangement.”

Despite public opposition, the Cook Islands Government earlier said it had no objections to the closure of the coastal road.

Prime Minister Mark Brown earlier explained that they have always been aware of the ring road development associated with this project, as per an agreement signed by the government and the landowner in the 1990s.

In November last year, Tim Arnold, the lawyer for landowner Pa Marie Ariki, confirmed that the approval granted for the road relocation cannot be reversed.

“I confirm that the approval given for the road relocation cannot now be ‘un-approved’. Any attempt by NES (National Environment Service) or anyone else within the Executive Government to try to achieve that would see us all in the High Court very quickly.”

National Environment Service director Halatoa Fua had earlier stated “as per the Environment Act 2003, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for the ring road development”.

Fua added that a request for further legal advice on this matter has been sent to Crown Law.

According to RNZ, the redeveloped property will have multiple swimming pools, a tennis court, restaurants, apartments to buy, guest accommodation and private beach access.