Nearly two years after a visionary program to transform Mangaia was launched, work has been completed over 12 separate sites on the island.
Minister of Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), Honourable Albert Nicholas led a delegation from Rarotonga, including representatives from the various government ministries, to celebrate the significant milestone with the people of Mangaia on Monday 20 November.
The heart of this initiative, Minister Nicholas says, was rooted in the aspiration to elevate Mangaia, focusing on comprehensive upgrades across a number of infrastructure targets, which had not been done for some years.
Twelve project sites were identified, covering a wide spectrum of essential elements such as machinery, buildings, public properties, and community amenities.
At the top of the to-do list, upgrading Mangaia Hospital was vital to enhance healthcare quality, expand services and improve patient outcomes. This transformation strengthens the hospital’s role in the community, fostering trust and providing essential healthcare services locally, while reducing the need for patients to seek care in Rarotonga.
For years, the doctor’s residence stood vacant and without a doctor and family. The building’s condition was inadequate for its intended use.
Following extensive upgrades, the residence has been refurbished and is now primed and ready to care for health professionals who provide much needed health services on the island.
Public toilets located at the hospital also underwent an upgrade. This was crucial to maintain high hygiene standards, prevent the spread of infections and accommodate visitors.
At Mangaia Power Station there once stood two 16,000 litre fuel tanks – one was recently decommissioned and the other had been out of service for many years, despite the efforts of the Island Government to repair it time and time again. A new 20,000 litre fuel tank has been installed to ensure the lights are kept on across Mangaia.
At Mangaia College, students embraced the program with enthusiasm, taking ownership of their education environment. Under the guidance of teachers and volunteers, they embarked on projects such as tiling classrooms, painting, carpentry and constructing their own furniture, while achieving their NCEA credentials. The upgrade of the science lab stands as a testament to their commitment to excellence, Mr Nicholas says. Discussions continue between the school, Ministry of Education and CIIC about additional work to be done at the school to help with hosting duties during the 200 years celebration of the arrival of Christianity to Mangaia.
Minister Nicholas says one notable instance of several agencies collaborating closely is the Mangaia Island Administration building upgrade.The building serves as the central hub for crucial community services, encompassing island government administration, the justice system and banking services. “Ensuring uninterrupted delivery of these essential services was paramount while undertaking significant building upgrades,” he says.
“The Bank of the Cook Islands partnered with CIIC and worked closely with the Ministry of Justice and the Mangaia Island Government.”
The Mangaia Infrastructure Compound was also outdated and required significant upgrades. It posed safety concerns and lacked adequate shelter and protection for both the staff and valuable machinery essential for providing services and supporting the work of the local community.
Closure of Ivirua School many years ago has left a lasting legacy and memory for many, Mr Nicholas says. But there remains an ECE class comprising approximately five students. “Alongside this legacy, there existed an asbestos roof that posed a significant health risk to the young ones and the Ivirua community. However, with the collaborative efforts of the local community, that risk has been successfully eliminated.” Presently, discussions continue regarding an appropriate infrastructure to replace the school block that will continue to serve the local community.
In addition to the properties which were originally planned, four more buildings and properties were also upgraded.
This included the Tava’enga Public Amenities/Toilets, the revival of the rock crusher after a two-year hiatus, the Mangaia airport terminal and the Agricultural Shed and General Staff area.
“As we embarked on this journey, our goal was clear: to enhance the infrastructure that forms the backbone of the Mangaia community, spanning education, health, administration and general infrastructure,” Mr Nicholas says. “Over the past two years, we dedicated ourselves to the task of transforming Mangaia. “Our overarching aim was to create a safer, more accessible, and enjoyable environment for both our community and our hardworking staff.”
Addressing a crowd of more than 70 people, Mr Nicholas says none of the work would have been possible without the invaluable support of landowners, all key stakeholders and most importantly, the Mangaia community.
“Your commitment and collaboration have been the driving force behind the success of this program,” he says.