Cook Islands Company Gets Contract For Water Project

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$20 million job goes to T&M Heather

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 1, 2014) – T&M Heather is on the verge of signing a contract with the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) to perform work as a subcontractor for the Te Mato Vai water project. T&M Heather and the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) are on the verge of signing a contract that will pave the way for the local construction company to participate in the $60 million [US$52 million] Te Mato Vai project.

CCECC assistant project manager Nie Kefeng said T&M has already started its subcontractor work, which includes supplying material and machinery.

Kefeng said the company submitted the lowest bid for the work, beating out two other quotes submitted by local entities.

CCECC is currently undertaking work to replace Rarotonga’s ring mains – which distribute water around the island. The project is estimated to cost $23.1 million [US$20 million], with the funds being sourced from a $23.5 million concessional loan from China.

Details are currently being worked out between the Chinese state-owned enterprise and T&M, and a contract will be signed "soon", said Kefeng.

Presently, the two companies are working on a pre-arranged unit price for work hours and machinery until the contract is signed, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Teariki Heather – a major shareholder of T&M Heather – has been the subject of allegations of conflict-of-interest as a result of his role with the company.

Previously, he has acknowledged that the arrangement may lead to the "perception" of conflict of interest, but has thrown aside the allegations, saying they are part of a "politically driven agenda" and any wrongdoing on his part would be contrary to his beliefs as a Christian.

Physical work on replacing the ring mains began last week, putting 29 CCECC crew members and company officials, along with 15 local labourers into action, said Kefeng.

The CCECC official said an additional six local workers will be recruited as work is ramped up and a second shift is added.

The company is currently working on the Avatiu backroad in Atupa, which Kefeng described as a "test section".

He said officials are working with Telecom Cook Islands and government agencies such as Te Aponga and Police at this stage to co-ordinate the construction process.

To date, the company hasn’t received any complaints, said Kefeng, adding he would like to thank locals for "understanding and supporting" CCECC’s work.

"We’re trying to reduce our disturbances to traffic and residences," he said.

Commenting in these early stages of the project, Kefeng said working in the Cook Islands has been a positive experience.

"It’s good," he said.

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