Environmentalists are calling for coastal engineers to have oversight of plans to infill the lagoon in order to develop Avarua waterfront.
Architects have laid out bold new plans to transform Avarua’s waterfront with a saltwater swimming pool, sports courts and, ultimately, a museum, cultural centre and sweeping new park, reclaiming the lagoon right out to the reef.
The 10-year development will be planned along Te Maire Nui Road which will see the completion of the Avatiu Harbour and reorganisation of the Punanga Nui Market.
The proposal is just the first phase of a 20 year long vision that will see the extention of Avarua’s waterfront with a new buffer zone for storm surges.
Passfield says: “The reef is what protects the island and so to go all the way out there you are putting whatever infrastructure you put out there you are putting at risk of storm surges and you’ve seen in the past what has happened to Trader Jack’s, for example.
“This coastline here gets hammered during cyclone’s many times so I hopefully they sort that through.”
Not all have warmed to the waterfront expansion idea.
Carolyn Vahlbruch said: “This will make Cook Islands less attractive. Surely there other things on the islands that need to be developed? If this is done it will take away from the special charm of the islands.”
Noo Auora said there were better ways to invest money: “A new face-lift for a new waterfront? Why not get a new facelift for a boat that belongs to the Cook Islands first, so that the Northern Islands can travel comfortably to and fro the island.”
Passfield says they would be following up with a response to the Environment Impact Assessment, if the plan was to receive Government budget sign-off.
He said Government should look at capping tourist numbers if the current township was unable to sustain numbers.
“Rather than looking at reclaiming land to accommodate more visitors, maybe they should cap on the number of visitors and improving what we’ve got now.”