Cooks tourism needs better infrastructure for growth
There are calls in the Cook Islands for improvements in infrastructure to ensure continuing growth in the tourism sector.
The Cook Islands tourism sector says the government has to step up and build a reticulated sewerage system for Rarotonga.
This was a key issue raised during a summit of tourism stakeholders last week.
The Chamber of Commerce president, Stephen Lyon, told Don Wiseman, they see a need for improved infrastructure.
STEPHEN LYON: Well over the last ten years, tourism has been very focussed on marketing and developing our product. That's been great for growing tourism and we've seen some excellent results there, we continue to grown and in fact the government continues to invest in airline underwrites to provide services from Los Angeles and Sydney. However, as we continue to grow we're now reaching a stage where we're at capacity for part of the year, which means that growth becomes much more difficult, and the government is expecting the private sector to invest into new room stock and things like that. In fact, there's basically an expectation that government has of the private sector to respond. However, the problem we have is that the infrastructure that the government needs to provide to facilitate that isn't really in place. You know, we need improvements in our wastewater treatment - you know, that's probably the key issue that needs dealing with.
DON WISEMAN: To be fair to the government on that matter, a major project is underway on Rarotonga at the moment isn't it?
SL: Well not really, no. We've had a trial project called the 'Water and Sanitation Project,' which was an NZ Aid project focussed on septic upgrades - that hasn't had the upgrades that were desired or expected. So now they are looking to switch that project off and look at a project based around reticulation.
DW: What are those solutions? You're a marine scientist, so you've got a handle on this. What is needed do you think?
SL: Well it's not rocket science, it happens everywhere. As population density grows along the coast you have to switch from a rural-based infrastructure, where you have individual septic treatment, to an urban infrastructure where you have a reticulated sewerage network and centralised treatment, and that's the stage we're at now. The fact that our environment has been developed in what you can consider a rural-type development process where properties develop their own septic system and so-on and so-forth is changing now. Our population densities are increasing, particularly when you count tourism on top of the residential population, and it's time to look at urban-type infrastructure such as reticulation and the like. We have an urban-type water supply - so we have water supplies to every household and we also have electricity of course, but infrastructure for waste water isn't in place, and that will be the next step.
DW: A significant upgrade of the sewerage system. What else do you think the government should do?
SL: We need to be investing in roading. Our roading is another infrastructure asset that needs improving, and alongside things like safer cycleways and footpaths so that visitors have a better experience, if you will. And our outer islands need development too, so while Rarotonga does pretty well out of tourism, Aitutaki has good huge potential but has limited access potential in that you have to take a domestic flight there. And if you saw Aitutaki be developed up to an international level of airport or air access, I think that island could then become a successful economic unit in its own right.
DW: How big is that drive for international flights into Aitutaki?
SL: The airport is big enough for it, but it just needs some upgrade measures done and of course a lot of that revolves around safety and things like that. But the domestic flight's about a 45-50 minute flight from Rarotonga. But of course if you're looking at coming here from somewhere else, the airfare up there is pretty expensive - it's almost the same as the international airfare or at least a significant portion of it. So it's an expensive extra trip, but if it was developed with its own international access then it would become a destination in its own right.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: