Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), Hon. Mark Brown, was pleased to attend the formal opening and blessing of the Arutanga Harbour Project in Aitutaki today.
This important project has been in the planning and preparation stages for several years now, with the aim of redeveloping the entire area around Arutanga Harbour, including the channel, the marina, the terminal and the reserves.
The day’s official programme in Aitutaki also included the signing of a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between CIIC, the Cook Islands Ports Authority and the Aitutaki Island Government.
The purpose of this MOU is to enable a coordinated approach between these three parties as they work collectively towards successful implementation of the Arutanga Harbour Project, which will provide the following expected outcomes:
- Safe and continued lifeline shipping services for the Aitutaki community
- Safe and compliant port facilities
- Enhanced public and recreational areas in and around the Orongo Centre and Port
Speaking at the opening, Prime Minister Brown emphasised the importance of empowering local government on Aitutaki to manage the Harbour Project.
“While the MOU signed today is between the Aitutaki Island Government, Cook Islands Investment Corporation and the Ports Authority, the Aitutaki Island Government – your local government – is very much in charge,” said the Prime Minister.
“The role of government agencies like CIIC and Ports is to support the Island Government and the people of Aitutaki to deliver world-class infrastructure for their community and for the people who live in their community.”
As to the on-the-ground project work itself, Prime Minister Brown was also keen to point out that this too would be largely in the hands of those from the local island community.
“We have purchased about a million dollars worth of new equipment to carry out the 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 pretty slick operators,” he said.
Prime Minister Brown went on to thank the local community and businesses for their patience as the project was being developed, as well as the Aitutaki Island Government, the Aitutaki Environment Council, the Ui Ariki and Aronga Mana and the MPs of Aitutaki for their leadership and support. He also offered a special thank you to Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Robert Tapaitau, and his team at Infrastructure Cook Islands for their technical assistance and materials supplied.
The Prime Minister described the Arutanga Harbour Project as representing “a prudent investment in our country’s infrastructual assests which will give us good service for years to come”.
“This will be another asset the people and community of Aitutaki can be proud of. A project delivered by Aitutakians, for Aitutakians.”
The Ports Authority chief executive Nooroa (Bim) Tou notes this project incorporates 3 key pillars, being environmental, social and economic.
“The Arutanga Harbour project is centered first and foremost on good environmental practices. The project is about moving silt out of the channel and basin, allowing a safe and clean marine environment for all to enjoy. The project also achieves important social deliverables. When completed, this facility will provide a reliable lifeline, to this community allowing for the safe delivery of essential goods through the Port services, helping to ensure a thriving economy for Aitutaki.”
Starting this week, and for the next 2 to 3 months, test dredging will take place along the southern-end basin. This will allow CIIC to ensure the techniques are sound, from an operational and environmental perspective. At the request of the Island Government and Environment Authority, the mud dredged during the test-phase will be used for community projects.
“I thank the Aitutaki Environment Authority for their approval to carry out these tests, while the EIA goes through the formal process” says CIIC chief executive Allan Jensen.
“The full Environmental Impact Assessment has been submitted to the Authority and will be available for people to review and comment on over the next 30 days. Once approved, and after the team has completed the testing requirements, work on the main wharf can begin.”
The dredging work entails widening and deepening the current channel to enable safe passage for shipping services and new tourism development opportunities, for the people of Aitutaki. The dredging of the channel forms part of the broader long-term Orongo Development Masterplan prepared in 2011. For now, though the focus and priority is creating a safe and fit-for-purpose channel and basin.
The channel width will increase to from 10 metres to 15 metres and the depth from 1 or 2 meters to 5 metres. The new channel will allow our current interisland vessels to come into port.
An estimated 70,000 cubic metres of mud and sad will be removed to be used for improvements around the port and for other community projects.