About $500,000 is required to improve FM radio connectivity on the outer islands, says Finance minister Mark Brown.
Brown said the fund would be used to purchase materials necessary for upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure on the Pa Enua in order for these islands to receive the FM signal.
The loss of the AM 630khz station, which had broadcast since the 1970s, raised concerns about ways of alerting the Pa Enua during natural disasters such as cyclones. It was reactivated in October from a smaller 36-metre mast at the golf club premises in Nikao, covering some of the outer islands.
In Parliament last week, Titikaveka MP Selina Napa questioned the government on when radio services will be returned to the Pa Enua, noting that the country is now into the “cyclone season”.
Napa said the outer islands were more vulnerable now that they are no longer able to receive warnings from local radio station.
She said checking weather updates online was not easily accessible in the Pa Enua.
Mark Brown said, government recognises the importance of good communication with the Pa Enua, particularly during the cyclone season.
“We recognise that with the dismantling of the mast in Matavera for the AM signal, this signal is now restricted from the Blackrock transmitter, but does not have the same reach as the previous transmitter had,” Brown said.
“Bluesky and Cook Islands Investment Corporation are working together on this and every island can receive the FM signal.
“But some of the islands need an upgrade of their telecommunications infrastructure in order to be able to receive the FM signal and also to be able to transmit it throughout each of the individual islands.”
Acknowledging it is a matter of urgency, Brown said the government was closely working with Bluesky and a New Zealand company to acquire the needed infrastructure for each of the Pa Enua.,
The infrastructure will not only ensure that they receive FM radio signal, but will also improve the television signals on all of the islands, he said.
In the meantime, Brown assured, “the response to any natural disaster, particularly cyclones that may occur in the next few months; Emergency Management Cook Islands working Bluesky and Investment Corporation will ensure that all of our islands will receive sufficient notification of any hurricane, in order to be prepared, on any of our Pa Enua, that may be at risk”.
The long term aim of government is to look for a suitable site in order to construct an AM transmitter with a mast high enough to be able to transmit the signal.
“With the advent of the cable coming through there are now other alternatives in order to be able to get radio signal to all of our Pa Enua. That is part of the plan that we are looking at now to implement in a very short space of time.”