Financial secretary Garth Henderson has confirmed there are ongoing issues concerning the Te Mato Vai (TMV) stage one project, built by a Chinese contractor.
The concerns, Henderson says, involve the non-conformance of materials as well as workmanship issues affecting the $25 million project, delivered by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) about two years ago.
Henderson says the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management is negotiating with CCECC to rectify the problems, identified in a review conducted by Opus, an international infrastructure consultancy based in New Zealand.
The issues with stage one of TMV, which involved replacing the inner and outer ring mains and cross mains, then connecting the new ring mains to the rest of the pipe network - were detected during the stage one opening ceremony last year.
“When we opened a valve in February, 2017, and shortly after they put pressure on one of the fire hydrants, there was a crack (on a tee joint), so it started leaking,” Henderson says.
“We got some tests done and the test findings were concerning, so we said, ‘look, we are going to do a range of tests’, (and) we started doing those tests last year.
“Roundabout in March, we got some tests done … there is enough to say we had a concern. We did three levels of reports and we got the final report on September 18.”
After reviewing the final report done by Opus, Henderson says MFEM concluded there were concerns regarding the workmanship and materials used in the project.
He says they are now dealing with CCECC regarding the issues revealed in the Opus report. Under the agreement, anything wrong with the project must be repaired at CCECC’s cost.
“We have had three informal meetings here (with CCECC) and two formal meetings in New Zealand with the (most) recent one on October 12 in Auckland, where we met with CCECC representatives and discussed the material and workmanship issues,” Henderson says.
“At this point in time, we are in negotiating processes around the report. We hope to have another meeting shortly.”
Henderson says one of the key aspects of the contract with CCECC is that the work must be checked and a check-and-acceptance certificate signed before it is considered finished.
“We haven’t signed that check-and-acceptance certificate. We are still having negotiations around this material and workmanship non-conformance and depending on the outcome, then I would look at whether or not to sign the acceptance certificate.
“If we don’t get what our taxpayers paid for, I won’t sign that certificate.”
The $25 million which paid for stage one of the project to provide potable drinking water to the people of Rarotonga, was a concessionary loan from the People’s Republic of China, which must be repaid by the Cook Islands.
Stage two of the project, which is now underway, is partially funded by New Zealand in the form of a $15 million grant, and the Cook Islands government.
In total the project, which is expected to be completed next year, will cost an estimated $90 million, and not the $60 million previously promoted by the government.