Development Group Plans Golf Course For Atiu In The Cook Islands

Merchant of Paradise continues to release plans for various outer islands

By Cameron Scott 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 27, 2016) – Atiu could be transformed into an international golfing destination, if the latest plans by the Merchant of Paradise (MOP) development group come to fruition.

The group has released a comprehensive development plan for the island, starring an 18-hole par 71 golf course. Its release follows the announcement of plans for Penryhn, which centre on the creation of a fishing hub and associated ventures.

MOP director Tim Tepaki said Atiu’s golf course will cater for everyone from “best tour players” to 36-handicap golfers.

“In other words, it will be a friendly, resort-style international course with a full-length practice driving range and putting green and a fully serviced pro shop with golf clubs and golf carts for hire.

“And the golf course will not open on Sundays, so all can rest and worship.”

Earlier this year, Tepaki said comments by Sir Michael Hill, owner of The Hills golf course in Queenstown, New Zealand, had convinced him that setting up a golf course on Atiu was a good idea. When Sir Michael visited Rarotonga in April to be guest speaker at the Air New Zealand Cook Islands Tourism awards, he commented that the best way to boost tourism was to develop international golf.

“It shows us that what we are proposing for Atiu is right on the button,” Tepaki said.

The development plan, which hinges on island leaders and landowners giving their consent and the availability of funding from China, also features international-class luxury accommodation including a 50-unit resort to be known as the Captain Cook Golf resort, with an integrated farm and market.

Like the plan for Tongareva, the proposed Atiu development includes a mix of four-star self-catering, five-star luxury and six-star butler service accommodation, with views of the golf course and ocean.

It also calls for development of six stock, six crop and 10 export crop farms, as well as the development of sustainable reef fishing operations by local fishermen and recreational deep sea fishing aimed at the tourist market.

“In addition to the farm integrated with the Captain Cook Village Resort, local farmers will be engaged to farm free-roaming stock to boost island and national food security,” the plan says.

Farming activities will include two one-acre poultry and eggs farms with their own abattoir, two one-acre pig farms with abattoir and bacon processing plant, as well as two two-acre goat farms with their own abattoir and milking facility.

“Local fishermen will be engaged to fish in a sustainable manner and supply the market with on-the-reef fishing and over-the-reef spear fishing, with a target market price of $5 per kilo for whole fish.”

An added note says a local fleet of 12 fishing boats will be established on Penryhn to fish national waters and supply pelagic fish to all islands at $5 per kilo for whole fish and $8 per kilo for loined fish. Tepaki says Atiu’s development plan will create plenty of business and job opportunities on the island – and he insists the workers will be paid New Zealand wages.

“About half the work force during development phase will be locals developing roadwork, landscaping and embellishing buildings, while Chinese partners assemble pre-cut buildings. 

“Some 161 job opportunities will be available at New Zealand wages during the operational phase, servicing tourism farming and fishing.

“There will be 85 jobs at the Captain Cook Village Resort, 66 jobs on the stock, crop and export crop farms and 10 jobs in reef fishing and over-the-reef fishing.”

According to MOP’s development plan, around 100 jobs will be created by “spin-off small business enterprises” in support of tourism, including air and shipping services.

Stakeholders in the development will include community bodies as beneficiaries to spread the benefits of the development plan to the wider community, who will have a say on whether or not their island should be developed, Tepaki says.

Tepaki’s claims that funding for MOP’s ambitious development plans for the Pa Enua can be obtained from China have attracted criticism and derision from some quarters, but as he pointed out, critics have since gone silent because “time and time again, China has demonstrated that the people of the Cook Islands can count on its financial assistance in the areas of social, economic and cultural development as provided under the One China Policy (OCP) Communiqué of 1997.”

He says that in a multilateral meeting in Fiji in December 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping told Pacific Island leaders that “China will add US$2 billion dollars more to the current US$2 billion for soft loans to assist in the improvement of infrastructure facilities and promote economic development” in the eight Pacific island countries that had signed the One China policy.

“This statement speaks for itself. I know of critics of our plans who checked out President Xi’s announcement and have gone silent.” Tepaki said the scale and community nature of MOP’s plans had also attracted international investors, with one offer coming from a Middle East group whose only precondition is a 10 per cent annual return on investment.

“I’ve said time and time again that the art of development is to scope a good idea and the money will follow.

“The money is now following our comprehensive development plan.” 

Cook Islands News
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