Work on the three buildings, originally constructed by the Chinese government through the Overseas Development Assistance they provided to the Cook Islands, was due to start by April this year.
However due to what were described as “internal issues”, the project has been put on hold and the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) which owns and manages the buildings is hoping to finalise a start date “within a month or so”.
CIIC general manager Tamarii Tutangata said it was expected that the project would start earlier this year, based on a schedule proposed by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
However, he said the Chinese government had not yet completed internal processes necessary to enable the project to start.
“In addition, we have been working with the Peoples’ Republic of China government to strengthen the contract specifications to ensure that the project can be successfully completed,” Tutangata said.
“Our expectation is that a start date will be agreed within the next month or so.”
The buildings, constructed over a decade ago have deteriorated over the years and are in need of repairs.
The Ministry of Justice and the police headquarters buildings are still occupied, while the sports arena has already been closed until further notice.
Earlier this year, Finance minister Mark Brown confirmed the Chinese government was committing around $10 million towards the project.
He said the Cook Islands government had addressed the issue of the buildings’ substandard quality of construction with their Chinese counterpart.
“There is a big programme of not so much (just) repairs, but total refurbishment of these buildings starting in the next couple of months. This will be paid by the Chinese to the tune of $9-$10 million,” Brown told CINews earlier this year.
“It’s a big refurbishment job that China has undertaken to ensure that it fixes what was essentially some substandard work done previously with the police, justice and sports arena buildings.”
The refurbishment work will also result in the temporary relocation of offices operating from these buildings.
It is understood that the Bluesky Sports Arena in Nikao was among sites being considered to house the Cook Islands Police Service when work starts on their building in Avarua.
There has been no confirmation on the alternative site for Ministry of Justice office, but CINews understands a number of options are being considered.
“Whole buildings will have to be vacated so that total refurbishment can take place. The government will be relocating the Ministry of Justice to a temporary headquarters and similar relocation will be done with the police,” Brown said earlier.
“It will take at least 18 months to two years to fully finish this project.”