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Minister questioned over delay in Manihiki Airport project

Saturday 25 March 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Local, National, Outer Islands

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Minister questioned over delay in Manihiki Airport project
Infrastructure Cook Islands Minister Albert Nicholas in Parliament on Thursday. 23032470

The delay in the upgrade of Manihiki Airport was brought up during Question Time in Parliament on Thursday.

Opposition leader and Rakahanga MP Tina Browne asked Infrastructure Cook Islands Minister Albert Nicholas if he had during a radio programme said the reason for the delay of the project was the landowners.

Nicholas said he did not recall making the comment.

“I cannot give an answer to a question that’s merely based on hearsay and not facts,” he said.

Nicholas said they were negotiating with the sole tender for the Manihiki Airport upgrade project.

“We are at the negotiation stages concerning the costs of the tender and costs of the project moving forward. There was only one applicant to the tender,” he said.

Democratic Party leader Browne, while appreciating the update given by Nicholas, highlighted the agreement that was reached by the parties in Court, three weeks ago.

She said the negotiation started in December, last year and all the parties were keen to make it happen by the end of March because of the escalating cost of materials.

However, she said during the months that followed, they had to go through three plans.

The first plan provided to the landowners was of an area approximately 24 hectares. Second plan was amended to 20 hectares and the third and final plan was 18 hectares.

“That is the reason for the delay, not because the landowners were dragging their feet, it was because the final plan had not been finalised,” Browne said.

The court in February heard that the two outstanding issues for the landowners were the definitive size and location of the Manihiki airport upgrade and its evaluation.

Meanwhile during her Cook Islands visit in October last year, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta pledged to support the upgrade of Manihiki Airport to “provide access to a wider range of aircraft and vital connectivity between islands”. The upgrade will be supported through $40 million invested earlier in 2022 in the Cook Islands Infrastructure Trust Fund.