Rotuma Runway Extension Project Commences

After decades long anticipation the ground breaking ceremony for construction of the new sealed runway in Rotuma took place today. Executive Chairman of Airports Fiji Ltd, Faiz Khan said this
02 Jun 2017 09:58
Rotuma Runway Extension Project Commences
Executive Chairman of Airports Fiji Ltd, Faiz Khan

After decades long anticipation the ground breaking ceremony for construction of the new sealed runway in Rotuma took place today.

Executive Chairman of Airports Fiji Ltd, Faiz Khan said this is a historical day for the people of Rotuma and the Fijian nation.

“Once completed, this project will transform the Rotuman economy bringing with it developments and economic activities. Travelling here today in the Fiji Link Twin Otter cost us $23,000 in charter fees. We were not sure until a few minutes before departure whether the pilot would bring 6 or 7 of us or not at all, depending on weight and weather conditions. Larger aircraft such as ATRs cannot operate out of Rotuma at present, but will be able to do so in future after the upgrades,” explained Khan.

“After the upgrades ATR 72s will take around 70 passengers with greater certainty on flight times and frequency. One can only envision the transformation this will have for Rotuma. The distance between Rotuma and Nadi is around 600 km but at present feels like 60,000 km’s. In the future Rotuma will be a destination just around the corner,” elaborated Khan

“The project has been made possible through the push and vision of the Government. There is no business case for Airports Fiji Ltd to develop Rotuma but we do so due to our social responsibilities as a Government owned entity. For your information the current landing fees for a Twin Otter is $15.18. So this aircraft we came in would pay AFL $15.18 for landing in Rotuma today. In a year there are around 70 flights. So that currently amounts to around $1,000 in gross landing fees revenue per annum for flight into Rotuma. AFL heavily subsidizes all domestic air travel as part of its social obligation.”

“This project is further evidence of Government’s inclusive and long term approach. It shows that the focus of Government is not just on mainstream Fiji but the entire nation. We are thankful for the Honourable Prime Minister and our Ministry of Public Enterprises’ directives, support and guidance.”

“We anticipate this project will have many challenges due to its isolation. To overcome them we will need collaboration between all stakeholders – the people of Rotuma, the contractor China Railway 5, the project manager consultant GHD, the Government officials, the District Office in Rotuma, the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Public Enterprises, the Department of Environment, AFL reps involved in the project, and everyone else involved,” said Khan.

The Rotuma runway project has already boosted the islands economy with 22 locals being engaged to work for China Railway 5th Engineering Group Co. Ltd with recruitment expected to further increase as construction commences.

Rotuma District Officer Niumaia Masere said the economic benefits from the runway upgrade will create enormous opportunities.

“It’s going to open up other developments like Tourism and Export. Rotuma has a bilateral agreement with Tuvalu and with transportation being made easier the export of commodities will increase,” Masere highlighted.

The Secretary of the Landowners Jioje Fiu said “On Wednesdays and Fridays we have about 12 to 13 people who wait to board the flight but there are only 5 seats available and most of the time our people go back home disappointed. This is the answer to our travel woes that we have faced for many years. We hope with the runway upgrade and with the arrival of bigger aircraft the airfares will also be cheaper.”

The total project cost is estimated at $13 million with completion programmed for March 2017. Government has given a grant of $2.3 million and the rest is paid by AFL as its contribution as a Government owned entity.

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