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Fiji Airports Delivers Major Infrastructure Development For Rotuma

Executive chairman Faiz Khan has reason to be proud after another success. It took the current team of Fiji Airports only two years to build a new chip seal runway
01 Nov 2018 12:28
Fiji Airports Delivers Major Infrastructure  Development For Rotuma
Fiji Link’s ATR 72-600 at the new Rotuma Runway opening in Malhaha, Rotuma, on October 29, 2018.

Executive chairman Faiz Khan has reason to be proud after another success.

It took the current team of Fiji Airports only two years to build a new chip seal runway in Rotuma when others had tried for 40 years and failed.

This upgrade now allows bigger aircrafts to service the island of Rotuma.

One can confidently say, as a result of economies of scale, the air fares have reduced and commuting to the island and development of this isolated island 587 km away is now a reality. Well done Fiji Airports for transforming Rotuma for good and putting smiles to the island of Rotuma.

The opening of the new chip seal runway was done on Monday morning by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

It was indeed another milestone infrastructure project by Fiji Airports.

40 years in the making

This project was a work-in-progress for the last 40 years, designed and shelved a number of times due to challenges with its isolation and resulting cost factors.

Fiji Airports executive chairman, Faiz Khan, said the last time it was shelved some 15 years ago, a budget of $22m plus variations was prepared for the runway alone.

Fiji Airports has delivered this project for $12.8 m with a bigger scope which included consultants costs, fencing, fire tender, fire building, crop clearance and compensation, barging, charter flights etc.

Mr Khan said: “This achievement is in line with FA’s philosophy of prudent cost management of our operating and capital expenditure.

“It allows us to build two of something when others would build one.”

Rotuma District Chief, Gagaj Amuela Manav, said this opening marked an iconic milestone for our country.

“This day forecasts a promising future for our future generations. Hereafter the people of Rotuma would be able to reap the benefits similar to that of people on the mainland,” he said.

He said all this would not have been possible without the vision of the government of the day and they are grateful to the Prime Minister for making this possible.

Challenges faced

Once a project is successfully completed, it looks easy to people.

To give you some idea of the challenges faced in working in an isolated environment that is 587km from Nadi, Mr Khan stressed the project spent about $0.5 million in barging costs and $0.65 million in flight charters.

“Each charter flight cost the project $23,000 and there were about 29 charters.

“There were five barges at a cost of around $100,000 each,” he said.

Mr Khan said Fiji Airports received no subsidies on these daunting charter costs but persevered on.

“It was never easy to build the runway in Rotuma to allow ATR operations,” he said.

Mr Khan thanked the contractor China Railway 5; the consultant GHD for ensuring they delivered the highest quality despite the challenges through isolation.

He also thanked each and every one at Fiji Airports for their tremendous efforts; the landowners for various cooperation; the Commissioner Eastern; Ministry of Public Enterprises for its strategic direction and their Board of Directors.

“I would particularly like to thank the Fiji Airports team that has delivered this project despite the adversities and challenges, through their sheer grit and determination,” he said.

“If we can build a new runway 587 km from mainland, we can and will change the face of domestic air travel within Fiji in a few years’ time.

“We will do so based on Government’s vision for better connectivity, development of Fiji and prosperity for the Fijian people.

“Government is the 100 per cent shareholder in FA. Based on the partnership we have developed with Government, no longer are such projects stuck in the pipeline for 40 years, no matter how difficult they are.

“No longer are such projects spoken about at gatherings and published in media for momentary satisfaction, without ever being delivered.”

Air connectivity

The success of this project marks the new beginning for air connectivity for Fijians.

Mr Khan stressed, in the past it was difficult to find a flight to Rotuma with the twin otters only carrying seven passengers at a time with one flight a week.

“This restricted the development of Rotuma. There are no hotels on the island. Many Rotuman people and Fijians have never visited Rotuma,” he said.

“Yet, Rotuma has pristine environment with its turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches.

“With the twin otter operations replaced by ATRs, tenfold passengers will be carried at a time.

“With a couple of flights per week, this new runway will allow Rotuma to transform itself for the better, for good. It will allow Rotuma to realise its potentials.”

Mr Khan stated: “This runway may have been 40 years in the making. But it is what it will mean for the Rotumans and the Fijian people for the next 100 plus years into the future that history will remember us by, as our greatest achievement.”

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

 

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