By EDDIE OSIFELO
AUSTRALIA Defence Force (ADF) engineers are in the country visiting the international border sites at Shortland and Temotu.
Government has identified the Patrol Board Outpost near Lofung close to Solomon Islands/Papua New Guinea international border.
However, it is still to identify the site in Temotu, in the eastern part of the country.
Australia High Commissioner in Honiara, Dr Lachlan Strahan told media in a breakfast event at Heritage Park Hotel yesterday that those projects were impeded by COVID and they could not get their personels into country that really held things up.
“But now we are moving quite rapidly with the engineers now on the ground visiting the sites and moving things forward,” he said.
Furthermore, Dr Strahan said just in the last few weeks, they have held a Security Policy Forum and Project Governance Board.
He said those two processes are joint processes as the Security Policy Forum is co-chaired by him and Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Police and National Security Karen Galokale.
Further to that, Dr Strahan said the Project Governance Board is co-chaired by Galokale and one of his colleagues in Canberra, who was responsible for their Defence Infrastructure Programmes.
“What we have done is to find serious of milestones for the design and construction work, which will unfold from now over the next 18 months of so?
“What we have done is we pull forward some of those milestones by some months?” he said.
“I keep pushing my colleagues to go faster and faster but they are also reminding of quality.
“We put little emphasis on getting cracking but there is a point where one of my colleagues call the law of physics intervening and you can’t actually move faster without building which is poor quality,” he added.
“So, we have some teams of the Australia Defence Force who are doing scoping study at both sites, in Shortland and looking at whole range of sites in Temotu.
“We haven’t selected a site yet in the East but this will be very much the decision of the government here,” he said.
At the request of the Government, the Western Border and Patrol Boat Outpost will be constructed near Lofung at the entrance to Kulitanai Bay on Shortland Island and provide safe vessel access and mooring for the two RSIPF Guardian-class Patrol Boats.
The facility will be a sovereign Solomon Islands asset and will be owned and operated by the national government.
It will include accommodation for up to 30 RSIPF officers and other government officials deployed to the region on a temporary basis.
The Outpost will facilitate wider, whole-of-government operations, including Customs, Health, Immigration and Biosecurity agencies.
Customs and Immigration personnel will be able to manage border controls for people entering Solomon Islands’ western border region more effectively.