$12.7 Million Arutanga Harbor Development Planned In Cooks

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Aitutaki project expected to boost local economy significantly

By Matariki Wilson

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 17, 2012) – In the Cook Islands, extensive development of the Arutanga harbor on Aitutaki and the surrounding area over the next five years will mean huge economic and social benefits for the outer island.

Aitutaki businessman Mike Henry with the support of the island’s Aronga Mana and island administration is spearheading the project expected to cost NZ$15.5 million [US$12.7 million].

The project is in the stage of recruiting three specialist advisors to provide the Orongo Development Committee with an Environmental Impact Assessment, infrastructure design and concept planning as well as project coordination.

The committee is also seeking expressions of interest for a financial analysis and business case advisor.

Henry says that project will be a more comprehensive harbor and marina development exercise that will incorporate existing buildings in the area and the vision of the island’s people.

He says the waterfront development has been a dream of the people of Aitutaki for many years and the work on the project began in 2008 with the first real underwater survey of the Aitutaki harbor for baseline data on the effects of dredging the harbor on the lagoon.

The survey was conducted with the support of the Ministry of Marine Resources with specialists from the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC).

Henry says that from the initial survey, which has provided computerized images of the seafloor in the area, the results show that no significant impact will be caused to the lagoon environment.

"We had to make sure that the project wouldn’t destroy the very thing, our environment, that we are protecting," says Henry.

The core components of the project will include deepening the channel to access a new northern and southern marina, development of the main harbor and jetty, the continued development of the Aitutaki Fishing Club, Orongo Centre, Ports Authority building and the redevelopment and renaming of the ‘GR’ grounds behind the Orongo Centre.

Henry adds that the Arutanga sports field next to the Orongo Centre will also be part of the redevelopment project which will include a 400 meter running track around the rugby grounds.

Henry says that the first stage of the project will be to dredge the channel and harbour.

He says that the dredging component alone, expected to cost NZ$3.5 million [US$2.9 million], will be the biggest economic stimulus for the island.

Henry says that this sailing season, 1,180 yachts left Bora Bora in Tahiti and sailed straight past Aitutaki to Vava’u in Tonga.

"Of those vessels that left Tahiti – 850 stopped over in Niue for a week and spent US$100 a day which generated about $1 million for Niue," says Henry.

He expects the same financial benefit for Aitutaki in just the first year after the dredging project alone.

"This will be new tourists to the island and new business coming in at the right end of the community – at the grassroots end."

"The first to benefit will be the Aitutakians and this (sailing) is a wonderful form of tourism as their impact on the environment and islands resources is very low."

Henry points out that the same dredging method used for the Vaipe and Tautu harbour which is also the same method used by Bill Doherty of Landholdings Ltd at the new Arorangi jetty in Puaikura will be used to deepen the channel in Aitutaki.

Henry says plans for works on the redevelopment project will begin early next year after the cyclone season.

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