Mitiaro airstrip work complete

Sunday March 24, 2013 Written by Published in Local

Urgent maintenance work has just been completed on the Mitiaro airstrip to allow Air Rarotonga to maintain its flights to the island.

Over the past two weeks Air Rarotonga cut back its three flights per week to two flights per week, while the maintenance was undertaken.

Infrastructure Minister Teariki Heather, acting secretary Mac Mokoroa and a representative of Air Rarotonga are flying to Mitiaro today to inspect the work carried out.

Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith said the maintenance work was needed because the soft coral airstrip had become “severely rutted” over the past year or so.

Smith says outer island airstrips often have to have maintenance work carried out periodically, but the lack of equipment and machinery on some islands becomes an issue.

The airstrip in Mitiaro, because of its softer surface, is more problematic than others, he said.

“The work had to be done or we would have had to close it [airport],” Smith said.

It is understood there were some initial concerns about funds for the work, however the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning (MOIP) began the maintenance on the airstrip on March 12 and completed the job on Thursday.

To enable the work to be carried out, the ministry shipped heavy machinery to the island via the Mycon barge.

Two weeks ago the ministry also sent a four-member technical team including engineer George Cowan to scope the work and oversee the repairs.

The island council provided a work crew of 15 to provide the labour needed, while the ministry’s 12 tonne roller, a grader and a tip truck filled, compacted and smoothed the airstrip surface.

The heavy machinery was due to arrive back in Rarotonga on the barge over the weekend.

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