21 May 2003

Public will decide if name of Solomon's Henderson Field will change

4:17 pm on 21 May 2003

The head of the Solomon Islands Government's policy evaluation unit, Sir George Lepping, says the public will decide whether Henderson Field airport in Honiara changes its name.

The country's only international airport is named after an American hero of World War Two and plans to change it have drawn flak.

Critics say changing the name of the most famous airfield in the Pacific will risk offending many people, particularly Americans, will be costly and will harm tourism.

Hundreds of Americans visit the Solomons each year to visit the sites of the World War Two battles on Guadalcanal and other islands.

Sir George Lepping says the name change was part of a wider search for more appropriate place names in various parts of the Solomons, as it goes ahead with plans to become a Federation.

He says they are aware of the criticism over Henderson.

"that is why we are saying, it will be put out to the public,...a referendum type thing, but we have to see if it's really worth all the expenditure, for the change of name and all that.... You know we are still studying it to see how best we can address that"

Sir George Lepping denies local media reports that the planned change had been suggested by a Japanese firm.