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‘Mystery’ boulders to be excavated from Avatiu Harbour

Wednesday 25 May 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Local, National

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‘Mystery’ boulders to be excavated from Avatiu Harbour
Boulders have been found on the floor of Avatiu harbour. Photo: COOK ISLANDS POLICE/22052420

A number of boulders found in Avatiu Harbour have posed a risk to the docking of the new police patrol boat Te Kukupa II, which is expected to arrive in Rarotonga in July.

According to the Cook Islands Police Service, 15 boulders were found on the harbour floor.

The boulders lie within the berth pocket of where the patrol boat normally docks, with the old boat Te Kukupa recently assessed for damages from the boulders over a month ago. 

Cook Islands News understands that Police Maritime Surveillance Advisor LT CDR Mark Te Kani and Police Commissioner James Keenan have prepared a request for the boulders to be removed, in advance of the new patrol boat arriving from Australia on July 20.  

“It’s important that the police request be taken up as a priority, so the intention is to consult with the government (and) the appropriate agencies involved such as the Ports Authority, CIIC, and perhaps the PM, due to the importance of protecting the valuable asset the patrol boat,” said a spokesman for the Cook Islands Police Service.   

“So far, the assessments reveal this to be an uncomplicated job, which should only require an excavator on the wharf to bring the boulders up.

“Disposal has also been considered as part of the job,” he said.

“We don't believe the cost would place this work in the stratosphere of tender contracts and it would only take a day. However, an Environmental Impact Assessment is probably required, and this could eat up valuable time, which is why we would like speedy consideration for approvals.”

Ports Authority Harbour Master John Jessie said there are certain requirements to get an excavator to work on the wharf because Avatiu Harbour is considered a “light wharf”.

He confirmed that an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) from the National Environment Service would also be required by the Cook Islands Police Service for the task to be carried out.

He said he didn’t know where the boulders came from, but that he had never experienced anything like the boulders appearing in the harbour before.

“Because we don’t know what the boulders are like, whether they have grown inside the harbour or are boulders that came from elsewhere, we need that approval,” Jessie said.    

“The Cook Island Police Service would need to get a 21-tonne excavator to do the job. “They are (also) required to get an engineer to do a site visit and confirm whether that excavator can work on the wharf. 

“Should the project not be complete in time, then we will put the (new) patrol boat at the front by the domestic until that job gets done,” he said.

“We are hoping that things will fall in place on time.”