Airports Vanuatu yet to be consulted by govt on radical plans
Airports Vanuatu Ltd's General Manager claims the government has not communicated to it about major plans for the country's airport services.
The general manager of Airports Vanuatu Ltd, Kevin Abel, says there has been no communication from the government to the company about plans for radical changes to the country's airport services.
The government has a deal with a Singaporean oil palm and tobacco producer to have it build and operate airports around the country for the next 50 years.
There have been reports of all staff being terminated, but Mr Abel told Don Wiseman says they have not been told anything.
KEVIN ABEL: Airports Vanuatu Ltd is mainly kept in the dark. We don't know what's happening, apart from hearing rumours on the street and reading the media outlets. What we're hearing from the media people is that if we will be absorbed into this new company coming in. And as far as I can confirm, as a member of the executive of Airports Vanuatu Ltd, we have not received anything from the proper and official channels of communication. But we notice that the government is saying all that, so basically we're just in a waiting game. We're just waiting and seeing what's happening.
DON WISEMAN: There are reports, I know, in the local papers, quoting the deputy prime minister, saying that staff would be made redundant and many would be re-employed, but not the senior management. But you haven't heard anything of that?
KEVIN ABEL: That is confirmed. We haven't heard in our executive meetings. Only our CEO keeps verbally advising us that it's normal anywhere in the world that when a company takes over from another company then of course to secure the investment they have to step in and have some control. So they must take the management roles.
DON WISEMAN: There's been criticism by this incoming company about the state of bar field in that it doesn't meet full international standards. You're disputing that?
KEVIN ABEL: That is correct. That is from the consultant. And he came out in the papers last Saturday saying that ... was not ... compliant. I was just cautioning everyone in the media that such headings are not supposed to be in the media. Vanuatu is driven by the tourism industry. That's our main economy. Putting out such headlines might discourage these airlines from coming in. For a professional consultancy group to come out with such remarks, to me it's quite unprofessional of them.
DON WISEMAN: There has been criticism, though, hasn't there, of the quality of the runway. One, that it's too short and two, that the surfaces are deteriorating.
KEVIN ABEL: Yes, that is correct. And that is the primary focus of AVL now is to address those surface cracks on the runway. And we're still sourcing funds for that.
DON WISEMAN: So would that be for an overlay, plus an extension of the runway big enough to take larger planes, additional taxiways, a bigger terminal and all that sort of thing?
KEVIN ABEL: The extension and the improvement of the terminal was intended to be a project that AVL was putting out on plan, and we were working very closely with a Chinese construction crew called Shanghai Construction Group. And they were nominated by the previous government and we worked together for about one year. Then that went off when the new government came in and they had other ideas.
DON WISEMAN: So what do you think of this idea, then, of a completely new airport being built on afate?
KEVIN ABEL: Our view is that we do need a new airport. But we don't just hop into it like that. Say, 'Tomorrow we'll have a new airport'. No, we have to look at the foundations first. We have to market the routes, do that progressively before going into a new airport. The government's decision to have a new airport might be a bit of a problem for us in the future - building a big infrastructure then we don't have those people coming in to use it.
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