HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

Nikao ideal for new port

A new purpose built port will enable the Cook Islands to cash in on the coming boom in Pacific cruises

News in last Tuesday’s NZ Herald newspaper, that New Zealand is contemplating major upgrades to its main ports in the wake of an expected boost to the cruise sector indicates NZ plans to cash in on the long term benefits that will accrue.
The other factor to motivate NZ to consider an urgent upgrade is the near completion of the widening of the Panama Canal which will result in the very large cruise vessels (ships that can carry up to 4,000 passengers) exploiting the South Pacific area.
For this influx of cruise vessels to get to NZ and Australia, they must pass by the Cook Islands. This is an opportunity too good to miss out on.
Former Ports Chairman Sam Crocombe believes the Cook Islands can cash in on this opportunity. However, we need to firstly develop proper port facilities To this end, Crocombe says there are long term economic benefits from constructing a new, large deep water port at Nikao opposite the site of the current Parliament.
A concept plan was completed several years ago showing a “U” shaped harbour concept similar to the port at Raiatea in Tahiti. Crocombe said discussion about a port at Nikao surfaced early in 2007 when he, Sir Terepai Maoate and former Harbour Master Don Silk were guests aboard the small cruise ship “Paul Gauguin.” Silk told Crocombe that Nikao was the ideal site and that he (Silk) had been promoting the idea of a port at this site to successive governments in the past but to no avail.
Crocombe said copies of the concept had been given out to MPs.
The recent upgrade of Avatiu Harbour cost over $20 million and against future development of Avatiu Port is that it cannot be further deepened and enlarged without enormous costs to cater for the large cruise vessels now being built. There are also height restrictions in terms of the aircraft flight paths. It is ludicrous that the economic performance of our major port is determined by the flight path of a foreign airline. Also with further commercial development of the area, streets would become too congested.
Crocombe believes our leaders need to start thinking about the long term and think properly. The long term solution is obvious, he says, and it is to construct a large, deep water port at Nikao where parliament building is situated. Here, the lagoon is wide. Crocombe estimates construction would cost between $50 million to $100 million. While this might sound prohibitive, consider this, a single large cruise ship carrying 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members could pump between $500,000 to $1 million into the local economy especially if staying overnight. At present the best we can hope for from such a cruise vessel when it is anchored off-shore, is about $300,000. One large cruise ship a fortnight could mean around $20 million pumped into the local economy in the course of a year. There is also the revenue the port would make from berthing fees and possibly the supply of fresh vegetables and fruit to the vessels.
Cruise ships are getting bigger and we are an untapped destination.
The plan shows a basin 12 metres deep with berthing for both cruise ships and container vessels. The port area would be on top of compacted excavated material. The “U” shape is designed to counter sea surges. There are two entrances. The port is 80 metres wide at its narrowest and will have a recreation area with public toilets, a vendor’s area, a pick up area for buses, taxis and tour vehicles, an information centre with currency exchange office, offices and toilet facilities, a port administration office, cargo sheds and a container area. Both ends of the port have buffer zones with tree plantings and there will be concrete or COPED protection units off these zones.
The port would need a tie up section long enough to cater for the large cruise liners that measure up to 314m long. This is possible at Nikao.
The port will sit out in the lagoon and have a causeway around 100 metres long connecting it to the shore.
If a cruise ship overnights, then day trips to the outer islands in the southern group become a real possibility whether by a fast ferry service or the local airline.
With the possibility of up to 3,000 people coming ashore each week or fortnight, this presents challenges in terms of transport (tour buses), links to the outer islands (fast ferry/local airline), retail outlets and entertainment facilities (potential for new developments), security (extra police).

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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