17 Dec 2013

Solomons' Malaita premier aims for reopened airport by weekend

3:11 pm on 17 December 2013

The premier of Solomon Islands' Malaita province says he wants the airport reopened by the end of the week.

Owners of the airport land near the provincial capital, Auki, have put logs across the runway in protest at a breach of their agreement with the aviation ministry.

Annell Husband reports.

"It's not the first time the Gwaunaru'u Airport has closed - last year it was out of action for some time over a dispute between landowners. The Malaita premier Edwin Suibaea says that dispute resulted in the lodging of a case at the High Court, which is yet to be heard. He says in the meantime the landowners have signed a memorandum of understanding with the aviation ministry which requires it to award any cleaning and maintenance contracts through a particular provincial member. Mr Suibaea says when those contracts were arranged through someone else the landowners wrote to the ministry, but didn't get a reply. He says while he empathises with their position the landowners should have tried to talk with the ministry before closing the airport. Mr Suibaea says a closure at this time of the year causes serious disruption and he'll be speaking to the chiefs involved to ensure the matter is resolved swiftly."