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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

AVARUA, Cook Islands (January 21, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---The Ministry of Outer Islands Development (MOID) has proposed an ambitious $1 million plan to improve the infrastructure of airports and harbors that have important links to the outside world.

Although the government doesn’t have the money to pay for the improvements, MOID Minister Tangata Vavia is confident aid agencies and governments will come to the rescue.

A planning team comprised of former Works Secretary George Cowan and engineer Steve Barrett will visit Mitiaro, Manihiki, Rakahanga and Palmerston.

Cowan and Barrett will decide what work should be done and what’s needed in terms of machinery and manpower. Vavia wants the plan completed as soon as possible "to show donors, and if they support the reform program and development of the outer islands and take direction from the Asian Development Bank report, we’ll get assistance.

"The outer islands have been the victim of unfair distribution of wealth in past years," Vavia said.

He said one or two of the islands may have been left out in the past because of political affiliations. Vavia assured that it will not happen any more.

"I don’t think anyone living in Rarotonga would like to work in the outer island harbors unloading during rough seas, the accidents that happen. Sometimes whole boatloads of cargo are lost. These are supplies that the outer islands wait months for," he said.

The proposal also calls for the construction of an airstrip for the 40 or so people living on the remote island of Palmerston.

Vavia says an airstrip will open the island up and "create tourism because Palmerston is well known around the world and it’s got nice beaches."

Rakahanga has been without an airport for about 12 years, after it was partially destroyed by a hurricane, Vavia said.

The islands’ harbors also are in serious need of upgrades to make the unloading of ships easier and safer.

Vavia said it would be ideal if all the harbors could be improved to the extent that inter-island ships could dock alongside the wharfs.

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

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