Captain Cook Resort, Rarotonga

The on again, off again "Vaimaanga Hotel" on the south side of Rarotonga may be on again. Construction of what was to have been the Cook Islands Sheraton Resort began in May, 1990, over the objections of many local residents. To finance the resort, the Cook Islands Government of the time borrowed tens of millions of dollars from an Italian bank, yet in mid-1993 the Italian contractors cut and run leaving the skeleton of a hotel behind. The government's loan money vanished with them.

Over the past 13 years, there have been many attempts to finish the ill-fated hotel. In 1998, a group of Hawaiian/Japanese investors paid a NZ$300,000 advance on the lease, but their plans fizzled when the Japanese partner was arrested for tax fraud. An attempt in 2000 to convert the Sheraton into a casino-equipped Hilton was scuttled by anti-gambling activists. In 2002, the government bungled an opportunity to have Outrigger Hotels of Hawaii manage the property.

Now the Tepaki Group of Wellington, New Zealand, has rushed in where wise men fear to tread. Plans for the "Captain Cook Lagoon Resort and Spa" resemble those of the 1990 Sheraton. The circle island highway is to be diverted inland around the backside of the resort, and there will be 156 suites, 26 apartments, various swimming pools, an 18-hole golf course, and conference facilities. That's assuming Tim Tepaki's grandiose plans come to fruition. To date all his outfit has managed to do is clear a bit of land and have a little ceremony, so don't bother trying to book your room as there's still plenty of time for Tim's scheme to collapse.

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