Fiji Airports executive chairman Faiz Khan said the face of domestic travel in Fiji will change as development continues.
He said this taking into consideration that Fiji Airports managed to build a new $12.8 million 1,400 metres of chip-sealed pavement runway 587 kilometres at Malhaha in Rotuma.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama opened the runway yesterday.
Mr Khan said in the past the Twin Otters used to take 60 to 75 minutes more in flying time than the ATR Turboprops that can now fly to Rotuma from Nadi.
“Fiji Airports has successfully delivered yet another milestone infrastructure project, the new Rotuma chip seal runway,” he said.
He said this project was a work-in-progress for the last 40 years, designed and shelved a number of times because of challenges with Rotuma’s isolation and resulting cost factors.
“The last time it was shelved some 15 years ago, a budget of $22m plus variations was prepared for the runway alone,” Mr Khan said.
“FA has delivered this project for $12.8m with a bigger scope which included consultants’ costs, fencing, fire tender, fire building, crop clearance and compensation, barging and charter flights among others.
“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.”
He highlighted some of the challenges that FA faced with the distance from mainland and getting the runway built.
“It was never easy to build the runway in Rotuma to allow ATR operations.”
He thanked the contractors China Railway Five, consultant GHD, FA board and its team, the landowners, the Commissioner Eastern and the Ministry of Public Enterprises.
“Government is the 100 per cent shareholder in FA.
“Based on the partnership we have developed with Government, no longer are such projects stay 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.
“The success of this project marks the new beginning for air connectivity for Fijians.”
Mr Khan said with the Twin Otter flights carrying just seven passengers previously, this restricted the development of Rotuma.
The island does not have any hotels yet Rotuma had pristine environment with its turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches.
He said with the ATRs and a couple of flights per week, the new runway would allow Rotuma to transform itself for the better and realise its potentials.
“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.”
Rotuma Council chairman Gagaj Samuela Manav said the opening of the new $12.8 million runway was a blessings for all Rotumans.
“We will now be able to uplift the economy of Rotuma and there are many ways we can do this,” Gagaj Manav said.
“We will be looking at tourism as one way of creating business. Once tourists see the beauty of Rotuma and that there are regular flights they will definitely come.”