New Plans For 20 Year Old Failed Cook Islands Sheraton Project Submitted

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Mirage Group applies for environmental permit to redevelop overgrown site

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 25, 2014) – The latest incarnation of plans to re-develop the overgrown site of the failed Sheraton hotel project in Vaimaanga are moving along through government bureaucracy.

An application - lodged by the Mirage Group Limited - for a project permit is currently being assessed by the National Environment Service.

A 30-day period allowing the public to make written submissions for or against the project permit ended earlier this week, leaving officials with the task of reviewing the entire project along with any submissions received. As of earlier this week, it is believed only one member of the public wrote to NES with concerns over the plans.

Mirage, working with New Zealand-based company, Herbert Construction, has submitted documentation showing bold plans to restore and develop the derelict property, which has fallen into a state of decay over the past two decades when financial issues halted the initial Sheraton project in the 90’s.

According to the documents, Mirage says the completed "5 star resort" will contain 198 hotel rooms, 16 serviced apartments, and feature Sheraton management and branding.

Central to the re-development are plans to divert the present course of the main road that currently separates the incomplete resort and the shoreline.

The Mirage consortium is proposing a new road to be constructed which will cancel the existing main road and divert traffic to the rear of the property, giving the resort direct access to the shore.

The consortium says the roadwork should be undertaken by the Cook Islands Government.

With the removal of the existing road, those behind the project say the beach will need additional protection, and are proposing the installation of two 40 metre long groynes - also at the expense of the local government.

The groynes will be natural stone structures jutting out from the shore at each end of the beachfront at the outfall of two streams, read the EIA documents.

An artificial saltwater lagoon with 18 overwater bungalow-like structures and three new, smaller 4-room buildings on the beachfront round out some of the features of the plans.

In addition to carrying through construction of the incomplete resort, the plans also include revisions to the pool area, landscaping, and the construction of a beachfront restaurant.

The EIA is carrying the Mirage name, despite comments made in late 2013 by landowner Pa Marie Ariki that the New Zealand-based development company will not be funding the re-development of the derelict site.

The consortium secured a lease on the section from the landowner in 2010.

In completing the EIA process, NES will seek Mirage’s input in reviewing any concerns raised through public submissions.

Afterwards, all documentation related to the re-development plans are forwarded to the Rarotonga Environmental Authority (REA) – made up of Rarotonga’s MPs, and representatives from NGOs, the Ministry of Health, Traditional Leaders, and civil society.

The REA then makes a final decision on granting the project permit, in accordance with the nation’s environmental laws.

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