The Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) and National Environment Service (NES) are happy to report that the Suwarrow Island Shelter has recently undergone a remarkable transformation thanks to the efforts of a Siteworx construction team that journeyed to the island in April, assisted by NES rangers Harry Papa’i and Tuaine Teiti.
For six to eight months of each year, the Suwarrow Island Shelter serves as both a home and base of operations for two park rangers who are stationed on the island to protect and manage the environment and wildlife of Suwarrow, which is a designated national park and bird sanctuary.
The unique biodiversity of the area, including the presence of several seabird breeding colonies and plentiful marine life, makes Suwarrow a site of great significance, not just for the Cook Islands but globally as well. Accordingly, maintaining the island in its unique state as a protected national park is our duty not only as Cook Islanders, but as responsible global citizens.
In addition to these important environmental duties, the park rangers in Suwarrow also serve as immigration, biosecurity and customs officers for any visiting sailing vessels that happen to stop by, although international visitors are currently not permitted due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
A scoping report conducted in 2019 had previously determined that significant renovations were required to the Island Shelter, but work was unable to be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic, which also prevented any rangers from being stationed on the island last year.
Once the Siteworx team arrived in Suwarrow this April however, the renovations were able to proceed at pace and the results speak for themselves.
Both the kitchen and bathroom were repainted and renovated, with the installation of a new kitchen unit, tiling work carried out on the bathroom floor and walls, and a new toilet cistern that is now plumbed to a non-potable water source so as not to waste precious drinking water.
The shelter’s exterior cladding has now been repaired and repainted, and both the upstairs and downstairs interior ceilings have been lined and repainted as well, as previously rangers had experienced issues with rust from the existing chicken wire mesh in the ceiling falling into their eyes, bedding and food.
The existing 4000L underground water tank was emptied, cleaned and repaired, and an 80-micron filtration unit installed. In addition, four new plastic 6000L water tanks were also connected to new spouting and downpipes for the collection of drinkable rainwater. Various other plumbing work and repairs were also carried out.
The shelter has also undergone a full electrical rewiring, with replacement lighting and power points installed, and a new generator shed constructed.
With all this and other minor repair work now complete, the transformation has been nothing short of miraculous according to NES officer Jessie Nicholson, who was stationed on Suwarrow in February and March this year.
“The whole place looks amazing, especially compared to what it was like before,” said Nicholson after seeing images of the renovation work. “I know this will make life a lot easier for the rangers stationed there now and in the years to come, and it will make such a difference to how they perform their required duties on the island as well.”
CIIC Associate Minister Albert Nicholas, who visited Suwarrow with a government delegation led by Prime Minister Mark Brown earlier this year, reiterated the importance of the renovation work, calling it “a gift for future generations”.
“We cannot overstate the significance of Suwarrow and the place it holds in our Marae Moana, so maintaining this site is of vital importance,” said Associate Minister Nicholas.
“From what I’ve seen the Siteworx team has done an awesome job of revamping the Island Shelter, which will be a big help to our park rangers as they go about their duties, ensuring that the special character of Suwarrow continues to endure.”