Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa was interviewed by FM87.5. An audio copy was provided by the Prime Minister’s office and transcribed and translated into English by Kaniva News.
The Tongatapu 10 roadworks should be completed by December 2019, according to the Prime Minister.
On his Talking Points programme last week, the Prime Minister said the original December deadline for completion of the beginning of the project at Tongatapu 10 had been missed.
“Too much work remained to be completed.”
But the good news is, according to the Prime Minister, the government undertook to finish its new roads project plan within the next two years rather than within the next four years it previously announced.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa said the government had made dramatic changes to its Ministry of Infrastructure’s work practices and has outsourced rock supplies for its road construction project.
The Ministry had contracted two private quarry companies to help with transporting rocks to Tongatapu 10 after the shortfall.
Under the old procedure in which Infrastructure workers processed the rocks in the quarries before they were moved to the road construction sites, only 30 truck loads could be sent a day, he said.
The Ministry only had 42 staff and labourers. The Prime Minister said that was too small a number for the project.
If the government had continued with the Ministry’s current procedures and number of staff, it could take 10 years for the government to complete its new road construction project, Hon Tu’i’onetoa said.
He said the government would buy new heavy machinery and equipment and were expected to arrive in Tonga within the next couple of weeks.
These included four bulldozers for each quarry, crushers, loaders, road rollers, craters and 10 heavy trucks. The Prime Minister said it was important to buy the right equipment for the work.
New road machinery and equipment from China were expected to start arriving in Tonga in July to be used on normal road repairs and maintenance, he said.
After the changes were confirmed the government would spend TP$78 million to construct and complete new roadworks for the whole of Tonga within the next two years, Hon Tu’i’onetoa said.
The $78 million costs for the rocks would save taxpayers $165 million after a previous estimate showed the project could cost taxpayers $223 million for the rocks alone.
He said this new estimate came after the government struck a new deal with four private quarries to buy their rocks at $70 a truck load. This was cheaper compared to $200 per truck load in the previous deal, the Prime Minister said.
This $78 million would be doubled when tar for sealing of the roads were included. The Prime Minister said if the total estimate for the rocks and the tar reached $200 million that’s still a cheaper deal.
The government had hired three quarries in Tongatapu and one in Vava’u for the project. He said two quarries belonging to two ministers were among the three in Tongatapu. He previously told Kaniva news the ministers were Lord Ma’afu and Lord Nuku. He did not identify the owner of the third quarry and the owner of the one in Vava’u.
The Prime Minister said the terms and conditions for the lease included agreeing for the quarries to operate only to supply rocks solely for the government’s road project.
The quarries also agreed to work at night when required. They also agreed to continue to provide rocks for the project even if the government no longer have money to pay for their services, the Prime Minister said.
480 truck loads were expected to be sent to the roadwork sites a day after the new deal was hit, the Prime Minister said. As a result, the project could be completed within the next two years with one quarry was estimated to deliver 120 truck loads a day.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa said it was estimated that 1,117,250 truck loads required to complete the government’s road project.
He said new roads need for new residential development areas is urgent. He said people had been waiting for years for the government to build roads in these areas so they could move in and start building.
These residential areas included 508 tax allotments in Tongatapu which had been divided into new town allotments and they required 206 km of new roads., the Prime Minister said.
In Vava’u 116 tax allotments had been divided into new town allotments and they required 51 km of roads. In Ha’apai, 24 tax allotments had been divided into town allotments requiring 55 km of new roads. Thirteen tax allotments in ‘Eua were divided into town allotments and they required 49.89 km of new roads
The Prime Minister said for about 50 years the people had complained about the condition of the roads and nothing had been seriously done to address it.
He said he had the courage to do this for the people although the government faced lack of funding.
The Prime Minister said when the project was completed it would be beautiful and future generations would appreciate that there were people who made sacrifices to build these roads for them.