Friday 15th April 2011
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Fletcher Construction - the huge New Zealand company given a billion-dollar job of overseeing reconstruction efforts in Canterbury - says US Government officials have lifted a suspension of its disaster reconstruction project in American Samoa.
"The people of American Samoa will have their houses rebuilt as promised," Fletcher executive Peter Cowey said in Auckland tonight. "Fletcher is 34% through the project and on target to complete 32 homes in the required time."
The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) suspended work for nearly two weeks on the contract it gave Fletcher Construction last November to rebuild 32 American Samoan homes destroyed in the 2009 earthquake and tsunami there.
Construction was expected to begin in late November and the homes should be completed in 10 months, Fema said when it announced the US$7 million (NZ$8.85 million) contract.
Samoa News reported this week Fema ordered work to halt on April 1 because of problems including risky construction techniques, a lack of subcontractor oversight and a failure to provide schedule updates.
Fema spokesman John Hamill said the agency gave Fletcher 304 days to build the 32 houses, but none of the homes had yet been built and officials will re-assess progress on corrective measures next week.
The project had been allowed to resume construction because the New Zealand contractor had made progress to address those problems, an agency spokesman said.
But Cowey said there had been no risky construction techniques employed.
"Most of the work is being self-performed by Fletcher," he said. "A small number of houses are being rebuilt by subcontractors.
"The programme that is 'not being adhered to' is our programme," he said.
The company began work on more houses earlier in response to community demand, so had not actually completed as many at this stage as it might have done if it had stuck to the original plan.
It had fallen down on a reporting requirement for daily updates - which was most unusual, "particularly in the Pacific" and the client had felt the need to make a point.
Fletcher Construction American Samoa has worked in the territory since 1979.
When Auckland-based Fletcher was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to repair 50,000 homes damaged in the September 4 Christchurch quake, its staff said one of the arguments made for Fletcher to win that contract was its experience in rebuilding after natural disasters through the Pacific.
Cowey said the pause in the Fema contract held no implications for the Christchurch reconstruction.
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