Arutanga Harbour Project – Blessing and Signing of MOU – Prime Minister’s Speech Notes

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Speech Notes for Prime Minister.

Kia orana katoatoa to all gathered here today including our traditional and religious leaders, Island Council representatives and our community as a whole.

Today marks an important milestone for Aitutaki and her people and for our nation too.

It gives me great pleasure to be here today for the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and to launch this project; which has been in the planning and preparation stages for some years now. Shortly though, once the Environmental Impact Assessment has been signed off, we will be underway.

Exactly what will we be doing here? Well quite frankly we will be improving and securing Aitutaki’s lifeline to the outside world.

As an Island nation we need to import all manner of goods and supplies; and Aitutaki as our second most populated island, and with a growing tourism industry , needs and will need more of those goods in the future. And having a safe viable port is a key part of that.

The opening of this part of the project, is a continuation of the broader Orongo master plan developed in 2011. When it was developed the multi-year Orongo project was estimated to cost about $15m. The plan aimed to redevelop this area, the channel, the marina, the terminal and the reserves.

Since 2011, CIIC has done a lot of planning, scoping, and feasibility studies. Important amenities like the new ports building and offices, the Aitutaki fishing club and Orongo Park with the new toilet block have been completed. An entire all of Island plan, Te Papa Tau o Araura has also been completed. All up just over $2m, in the last 10 years and we now have a clear programme to improve the channel and basin, over the next year, a further investment of about $2m.

Last month we launched our revised National Infrastructure Investment Plan (NIIP), a guide to our infrastructure investments as a country over the next 10 to 15 years.

The NIIP is a key plan that falls under our national vision, “te oraanga tu rangatira kia tau ki te anoano o te iti tangata, e kia tau ki ta tatou peu Maori e te aotini taporoporoia o te basileia,” to enjoy the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and in harmony with our culture and environment.

Along the same lines of our budget passed in June, a key feature of this NIIP, is centered on revival and growth, with a focus on kickstarting our economy. The NIIP is a plan or pipeline of infrastructure activities, it gives us perspective in terms of what we need to collectively achieve, both public and private, to develop this beautiful nation of ours.

The work we’re about to undertake here in Aitutaki will see the entrance to the lagoon widened and deepened.  Big ships will still have to unload and load outside the reef, but working the passage will be much safer.

Our smaller island cargo boats, and our patrol boat Kukupa will be able to come into the harbour and tie up in future. When we get out larger replacement patrol boat next year, that too will be able to come in and tie up.

It’s estimated that with our dredging at the entrance and around the wharf area, we will remove about 70-thousand-metres of sand and mud from the sea floor and that will be used as fill for extensions to the wharf facilities and for other projects around the island.

The harbour area will be given a spruce up in the process improving the environment in the wharf area at the same time.

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.

People like Vano Rima who has come home from Australia bringing with him the skills and expertise he learnt there with 50 ton excavators and putting those skills to use now for the benefit of the Island.

While the environmental impact assessment is being audited the construction crew will hone their skills and techniques by dredging an area on the south side of the wharf; they have permission to do that.

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.

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 communities, for the people who live in these communities.

The work is expected to take about 12 months to complete and after that the machinery being used will be moved to other Pa Enua to do similar tasks.

And this is one of the aspects of this project that sets it apart from others. We have a project here that we are doing, which will be replicated across the Pa Enua. Here, we are developing our own IP, to share around the nation. We will also save several million in terms of these assets to the taxpayer, to be used across all these projects.

This project is expected to cost about a million dollars and like other projects carried out here – like the recent improvements to the Tertiary Training facilities, the old Amuri School earlier this year, turning that into Aitutaki’s CITTI campus, done by Aitutaki students, where they were trained, delivering their trade for the community –  represents 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 will be proud of. A project delivered by Aitutakians, for Aitutakians. It makes me proud, travelling around the Pa Enua to see projects done by the people, for the people. Another example of this is what was done at the Aitutaki Hospital last year. Giving a little life to the facility, repairing leaks, rewiring the whole facility including lighting, $300,000, all done by Aitutaki for Aitutaki.

There are many people to thank for getting us to this stage with this project.

On behalf of CIIC and the government of the Cook Islands, I would like to thank the Aitutaki Island Government the  Aitutaki Environment Council, the Ui Ariki and Aronga Mana and the MPs of Aitutaki for your leadership and support, a special thank you to the DPM and team at ICI for the collaboration and technical assistance and materials supplied.

This is great and something I am really proud of, where we see agencies like the Cook Islands Investment Corporation and ICI and the Ports Authority, working together, to deliver a project for the people. I also want to acknowledge the sponsorship from CIGT who have shipped materials and equipment for this project from Rarotonga to Aitutaki free of change.

Most of all I thank the local community and businesses for their patience over the past many years. I look forward to returning to this project, mid to late next year, to celebrate the conclusion of this part of the Orongo development

Meitaki atupaka, kia orana e kia manuia.

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