French Polynesian president Edouard Fritch visits Hao atoll to view progress on the aquaculture project being built by the Chinese company Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods Photo: supplied
The French Polynesian government says the fish farm project of the Chinese company Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods on Hao atoll is a unique opportunity to get engaged in the blue economy.
The vice-president Tearii Alpha has told the assembly that for 40 years there has been talk of developing aquaculture without making much progress.
His endorsement is the first government comment since July when the French President Emmanuel Macron dismissed the Hao project as grotesque and described the investors as dubious.
The project to build the South Pacific's largest fish farm has been dogged by repeated delays since its inception seven years ago.
Initially forecast to cost $US1.5 billion and employing 10,000 people, the project has been downgraded to $US320 million to still produce 5,000 tonnes of grouper and wrasse a year from cages placed in the lagoon.
However, in an interview with La Depeche de Tahiti last week, the head of Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods, Wang Chen, said the company still planned to use its three construction permits before they expire in 2022.
According to Tahiti-infos, some of the permits expired last month and there has been no government confirmation that they had been extended.
Despite a recent Accounts Office report suggesting the Chinese company had failed to meet all its obligations, Alpha said the investors complied with all regulations.
He said he was recently advised by Mr Wang that there would be consequences if French Polynesia or France blocked the project.
French Polynesia's housing minister, Tearii Alpha Photo: AFP
Alpha said this is understood to mean that Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods would seek to be compensated for the investments made so far, estimated to amount to about $US5 million.
He also said experiences with Chinese investors since 2015 have been completely different to the various prejudices about Chinese investors in general.
Alpha said China's Hainan group is involved in the hotel sector in Bora Bora and Moorea.
In his interview last week, Wang said he was astonished at Macron's remarks because his company always complied with the regulations, and he was convinced the economic cooperation relations between France and China were good, free and open.
Asked if the project had a geopolitical dimension, he said it was a cooperation project which must be placed within the framework of the economic relations of French Polynesia, France and China.
Wang added that in 2029, French direct investments in China were three times larger than Chinese investments in France.