By EDDIE OSIFELO
TWO airstrips in Western and Choiseul provinces will be the first to benefit under the $1.5 billion Australian-government funded Solomon Islands Infrastructure Programme (SIIP).
They are Seghe in Western and Taro on Choiseul.
Australia High Commissioner, Dr Lachlan Strahan and New Zealand High Commissioner, Georgina Roberts have signed the Delegated Cooperation Arrangement in Cabinet last Friday to enable the projects to get off the ground.
The Australia government has committed $110 million to both projects.
Roberts said, “this collaborative approach is an example of ‘kotahitanga’ – different partners coming together with a common purpose: this being to support Solomon Islands to achieve its goals. By working together, we are stronger than the sum of our parts.”
Dr Strahan recognised New Zealand as Australia’s closest partner and acknowledged its leadership in the aviation sector in Solomon Islands.
“Connectivity is fundamentally important in driving development; transport links are critical.
“This project is testament to New Zealand’s clear-sighted assessment of the need for all-weather airfields in the provinces”, he said.
The upgrade of both Seghe and Taro is expected to cost $24 million.
It includes sealing and lengthening Seghe and Taro runways to make them all weather and capable of landing Dash 8 aircraft.
Besides, the project covers monitoring, engage and consult with communities, and ensure social and environmental safeguards are in place.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare earlier said design and procurement works for Seghe and Taro are expected to complete by the end of this year.
The launch of SIIP follows the recent announcement of a $180 million partnership between Solomon Power and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific to finance the Tina River electricity transmission system.