Arutanga Harbour Project

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Having now released the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for public consultation on the Arutanga Harbour Project, the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) is pleased to be able to move forward on this ambitious Aitutaki undertaking, with dredging work currently scheduled to begin next month.

Driven by CIIC, the Cook Islands Ports Authority (CIPA) and the Aitutaki Island Government, the central aim of the Arutanga Harbour Project is to improve the safety and usability of the harbour and port, allowing continuous flow of cargo to the island and safe passage for small ships, yachts and cruise ship tenders.

The shallow waters of the Arutanga harbour and channel entry, together with the limited land area available to safely and securely handle cargo, currently poses risks to lifeline services and port operations. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of the Arutanga Harbour Project is to improve the standard of the harbour to safeguard the wellbeing of the Aitutaki community.

The project will involve dredging the harbour channel to a depth of five metres and a width of 15 metres, stretching along the channel’s entire 980-metre length from the entry point to Aitutaki Port.

The three harbour basins will also be dredged to varying depths of 3-5 metres, so as to allow for the safe manoeuvring and berthing of barges and other vessels, and the port loading and storage areas will be extended and reorganised to meet international port standards.

Dredged material will be used to form causeways which will facilitate the removal of further material from the channel and inner basin areas.

These causeways will be removed once dredging of the channel and basins is complete and that material will then be used in land reclamation work around the port area and foreshore, for beach restoration, and also as fill for inland roads and other island government projects.

All dredging and reclamation work is expected to be completed within 12 months, allowing for expected delays caused by adverse weather during the cyclone season running from November to March. The current estimated cost of this work is $1.8 million.

Local knowledge, resourcing, ownership and leadership is a key component of delivering a government project successfully in the Pa Enua. For this reason, the Arutanga Harbour Project will be implemented by Aitutakians.

The project team’s heavy machinery operators are Vano Rima and Nga Teaukura, who are both highly skilled, experienced and Australia-certified in operating heavy machinery such as the 50-tonne Doosan excavator purchased for the project. This excavator and other purchased equipment will be transferred to Infrastructure Cook Islands upon completion, enabling significant cost savings on future projects in Rarotonga and throughout the Pa Enua.

The Harbour Project’s maintenance lead and relief operator is Lawton Story, who is a New Zealand-certified excavator and loader operator and qualified in automotive machining. Servicing and assessments will be carried out by Junior Manuela and Trevor Hemmingson, who between them have more than 50 years mechanical and servicing experience in New Zealand and Aitutaki.

Further local support will be engaged from the local private sector for various elements of the project. Leading the ground team is the newly appointed Works Liaison Michael Henry, supported by Project Engineer Ata Herman. Overall Project Manager is Romani Katoa, with oversight by Anne Taoro, CIIC’s Government Facility/Asset Development Manager.

“We are fortunate to have a project team comprised entirely of Aitutakians who are qualified and experienced to deliver this project,” said CIIC CEO Allan Jensen.

“Going on past experience there have been noticeable differences in the quality of project outcomes when delivered by the island, compared to those that are contracted from outside the community.

“The community expectations and pride can only be fully appreciated by the community themselves and this shows in the work they carry out.”

In addition to the excavator already mentioned, various heavy machinery items with customised attachments not already available via our local private sector have been purchased specifically for this project. By purchasing this machinery and equipment and refurbishing the island government’s existing machines, along with utilising local resources, work can be completed for a quarter the cost of contracting out.

The Arutanga Harbour Project has been in planning for close to 10 years, being a small part of the Orongo Development Masterplan which also features structural works at the port to improve resistance against the effects of sea level rise caused by climate change, as well as tourism-focused development of the port and marina.

Works completed to date include refurbishments to the port sheds, beautification and improvements to Orongo Park, and the construction of the fishing club and public toilet facility.

This masterplan was commissioned in 2014 by the CIPA and Aitutaki Island Council and is currently estimated to cost $18 million, with realisable economic development opportunities as a result.

Consultations regarding the plan have taken place over the years with stakeholders, relevant ministries, local businesses, traditional leaders and the community. Concerns that have been raised specific to the Harbour Project have been addressed in the EIA report and can be managed so that impacts are minor.

As work progresses, all relevant stakeholder groups mentioned above will continue to be kept informed of or involved in the project throughout its duration. CIIC is confident that we have retained the best personnel for the job while maintaining a high level of engagement form the island community and we now look forward to the successful completion of what is a landmark development project for the people of Aitutaki.

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