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ICI apologises for ‘accidental’ Vaimaanga backroad clearing

Tuesday 9 May 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National


ICI apologises for ‘accidental’ Vaimaanga backroad clearing
Road work improvement have started on the backroad of the Vaimaanga Ara Metua (from Vaimaanga to Avaavaroa) which caused havoc for farmers. 23050311

Infrastructure Cook Islands secretary Elizabeth Wright-Koteka says lessons have been learned in the wake of the ‘accidental’ clearing of a section of Vaimaanga Ara Metua backroad in Titikaveka.

Her comments came after ICI held a meeting last week about the work in response to residents’ concerns, particularly after well-known pineapple farmers John and Anne Maoate had their banana trees which had lined the backroad bulldozed without any consultation.

Wright-Koteka said: “I sincerely apologise to the residents and landowners of the 150 metres of the Vaimaanga backroad that had been cleared for all the inconveniences and uncertainty that this unfortunate action has caused.”

“From ICI’s perspective this has been an important lesson learnt by our staff involved and we have tightened our processes to ensure that this is not to be repeated.”

Wright-Koteka said “the instructions given by myself to staff was to fix the existing road”.

“Given that this would not have any other impacts on residents’ current land footprint, we did not see the need to have consultations, except from informing the public that the backroad will be upgraded and there may (be) disruptions during the time of the upgrade, which we put out on various platforms,” she said.  

“The clearing of additional road area in stage one of works, 150 metres, was not meant to happen and was a misunderstanding of the instructions given by our team. After this misunderstanding, it became necessary to hold a meeting with those on this road to explain the situation and what was intended.”

Titikaveka MP Sonny Williams, who also attended the meeting, admitted that communication about the widening and improvement work to the Vaimaanga Ara Metua backroad in Titikaveka could have been “better”.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened,” Williams told Cook Islands News.

Williams said the meeting helped alleviate a lot of people’s concerns about the ongoing work.

“It’s not an isolated project, it’s part of a much bigger work throughout the island,” he said.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen major work done on the main roads, and now it is time for the backroads to be improved. We spoke about it at the meeting. I think once people understood what these measures were about, they were more open to the idea.”

Williams said most of those at the meeting accepted both ICI and his own apologies about the perceived lack of communication.

“Once they knew what these works were about, there was strong support from those at the meeting,” he said.

ICI’s Wright-Koteka said the Vaimaanga backroad was in desperate need of repair, and the work now will be to repair this stretch of road.

“The upgrade of the road will follow the existing road, with the width of 4 metres, as was intended at the time of instruction to repair this road,” she said.

“ICI hopes that the Vaimaanga backroad residents and users will have a much-improved road to travel on within the next month. We humbly ask for your patience and understanding as our team work to complete this road repair.”

Last month, Infrastructure Cook Islands Minister Albert Nicholas unveiled to Cook Islands News the Government’s $6 million plan to upgrade Rarotonga’s back and side roads over the 2023-24 financial year.

Vaimaanga Ara Metua backroad in Titikaveka is one of the first to get upgraded as part of the works, and it is expected to be completed in June.

Nicholas said the Government would also continue with its regular maintenance roading programme.


Paul Montbatten on 09/05/2023

I agree with the previous writer. This lack of shareholder input is common in Canada as well. I live across from a large field used for growing wheat. The city administration decided to level it and build a swimming pool/car dealership/ hotel. So much for feeding the worlds population.

Te Tuhi Kelly on 09/05/2023

Way too late the horse has already bolted. It's that old seek forgiveness after the fact, the Raro way of doing things. Not good enough, I can count the number of times where the consultation process was inadequate, non-existent or a joke. There is a consistent pattern when such capital works are done here. Bulldoze through and apologise after. Very few here know how to run a proper consultation process and I don't mean just hold a meeting and tell everyone what you are going to do. Consultation is about asking not telling. The telling is all that they know. To Tatou Vai, land clearing, tree cutting, road widening, land fill and the list goes on and on. The communication has and will always be the last thing on their lips. What do you expect when you hire Muppets to do the consultation. There is a time factor here, they have known for months and months that capital works were on the list, did they consult, no they did not, waited till the last minute, ran rough shod over adjoining property's hard work and then have the cheek and the gall to apologise once they wreck people's livelihoods and hard work.