RAROTONGA AIRPORT PROPOSAL HELD UP

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By Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (September 20, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---Businessman Richard Barton's proposed Rarotonga airport extension is on hold for the moment, due to the political uncertainty facing the country.

A representative from YVR Airport Services was in Rarotonga recently on his way back to Canada from Wellington, but said that formal discussions about the airport proposal were not conducted due to the current political instability.

"Politically, this is not the best time to hold talks. The sensitivity of government to the by-election results means everything could change. We don't even know what the status of the Airport Authority is," Mr. Barton said.

According to Mr. Barton, the Canadian representative from YVR made courtesy visits to a number of concerned parties, but he added that the current absence of many of our political leaders has made project development difficult.

"As far as holding meaningful discussions, it hasn't been easy with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and (Tourism Minister) Tupou Faireka away. They will be back prior to the 29th of September to see the results of the by-election, and nothing can be done until then," he said.

Mr. Barton's proposal in conjunction with YVR Air Services would see them coming in to manage the Rarotonga International Airport and the Aitutaki Airport.

An integral part of the proposal is a 52-meter (171.6-foot) extension to the existing runway in Rarotonga, a development that would allow for increased air traffic and direct flights from Los Angeles.

Mr. Barton's proposal has met with opposition from landowners in the extension area, who are concerned about the impact it would have on local business.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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