While some of my political opponents are critical of how much we are investing in the Pa Enua, I believe we still need to do more, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Kia Orana tatou,
Today, as you read
this column in the newspaper, I am in Aitutaki for a very special event.
That event is the formal
opening and blessing of the Arutanga Harbour Project – a project which has been
in the planning and preparation stages for some years now. This is an important
project for the future development of Aitutaki and the Cook Islands.
It is fitting that
as we acknowledge this project milestone with a ground-breaking ceremony, let
us not forget that Aitutaki and our many ekalesia are preparing to host the
huge milestone this year of the 200 years since the arrival of Christianity to
the Cook Islands next month, an event that many hundreds are expected to attend.
However for our
projects, while there is still much work to be done, there is a lot that has
already been accomplished.
But works of this nature do not happen overnight. It
takes planning over multiple years and budget cycles, it takes scoping and
designing to be sure we get what we want, and it takes feasibility studies to
determine the costs which are variable and subject to fluctuations. This is the
work that we started in 2011 and are now reaping the rewards for being sure and
steadfast in our project preparation.
Important amenities like the new ports building and
offices, the Aitutaki fishing club and Orongo Park with a new toilet block have
been completed. An entire all-of-island plan, Te Papa Tau o Araura, has also
All up, just over $2 million has been spent on these
works over the past 10 years and we now have a clear programme to improve the Arutanga
Harbour channel and basin over the course of the next year, representing a
further investment of another $2 million.
This is all a continuation of the broader Orongo
master plan developed in 2011. When it was first developed, the multi-year
Orongo project was estimated to cost about $15 million. The plan aimed to
redevelop the entire area around Arutanga Harbour – the channel, the marina,
the terminal and the reserves.
It’s a significant investment – but one which is
necessary to help improve and secure Aitutaki’s lifeline to the outside world.
As an island
nation, 90 per cent of all our imports come in by sea. We import everything
from building supplies, furniture, vehicles, clothes, appliances, parts, and
food. As our second most populated island, Aitutaki’s development will require
a safe, viable and modernised port to keep up with demand and to keep costs
The work we’re
about to undertake in Aitutaki will see the entrance to the lagoon widened and
deepened. Big ships will still have to unload and load outside the reef, but
working the passage will be much safer.
Our smaller island
cargo boats and our patrol boat Kukupa will be able to come into the harbour
and tie up in future. When we get our larger replacement patrol boat next year,
that too will be able to come in and tie up at the port.
that with our dredging at the entrance and around the wharf area, we will
remove about 70,000 cubic metres of sand and mud from the seafloor, which will then
be used as fill for extensions to the wharf facilities and for other projects
around the island.
The harbour area
will also be given a spruce up in the process, improving the environment in the
wharf area at the same time.
We have purchased
about a million dollars worth of new equipment to carry out this work, and one
of the things I’m particularly pleased about is that it will be done by
Aitutakians who have undergone training to operate the new machines, and who I understand
have proven to be very good operators.
People like my
Rima, who has come home from Australia, bringing with him the skills and
expertise he learnt there from working 50-ton excavators and now putting those
skills to use for the benefit of his home island.
The work at
Arutanga Harbour is expected to take about 12 months to complete and after that
the machinery being used will be moved to other Pa Enua projects to improve
their infrastructure. By utilising this machinery and other assets in further
work across the Pa Enua, we will be saving our taxpayers several million
dollars, while at the same time addressing much needed infrastructure work in
the Pa Enua.
Already in this
year’s budget is the work to seal and upgrade Manihiki airport and runway,
which will help reduce the cost of airfares to the Northern Group and provide
greater economic opportunities for our people of Manihiki. Also in the pipeline
is the construction of a medical centre on the island of Tongareva, and the
improvement to Nassau passage for safety of our people on our islands.
So while some of
my political opponents are critical of how much we are investing in the Pa
Enua, I believe we still need to do more. All of the above projects and more
are contained in our National Infrastructure Investment Plan
(NIIP), a guide to our infrastructure investments over the next 10-15 years,
which was launched last month.
The NIIP is a key plan that falls under our national
vision, ‘te oraanga tu rangatira kia tau ki te anoano o te iti tangata, e kia
tau ki ta tatou peu Maori e te aotini taporoporoia o te basileia’ – to enjoy
the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and
in harmony with our culture and environment.
This plan gives us perspective in terms of what we
need to collectively achieve to develop this beautiful nation of ours, from
Rarotonga to Aitutaki and throughout all of our Pa Enua.
And as I travel around the Pa Enua I am so proud to
see these projects that are being carried out by our own people, for the
benefit of our own people – projects delivering world-class infrastructure that
we can all be proud of and that will serve not only us but also our tamariki
and mokopuna for many more years to come.