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Malolo a lesson for landowners

Thursday 14 February 2019 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – A Fiji opposition MP says events on the island of Malolo should be a warning to all landowners in the country.

Villagers on Malolo said a Chinese resort development has damaged their fishing grounds, mangroves and reefs.

But the developer, Freesoul Real Estate, has defended its work saying it followed all the processes required under its leases.

The company has been charged with failing to comply with a Prohibition Notice and for carrying out development without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment Report.

MP Lenora Qereqeretabua said all Fiji landowners need to be aware of the impacts development can have.

“That it’s not about the quick buck. Very short-term, you know just looking just to the end of their noses.

“We are stewards of an inheritance that’s been handed over to us by our forefathers and we have a real responsibility as members of landowning units, indigenous landowning units to make sure that we leave something for our descendants.”

“They need to be asking questions,” she said.

“They need to be involved in every aspect of the development.”

Qereqeretabua said the Chinese developer, Freesoul Real Estate, must be brought to justice over its “blatant disregard of Fiji’s resources and laws”.

“And I am shocked that this has happened in an area where a lot of tourism development has already happened.”

Environment Minister Mahendra Reddy said the government would prosecute Freesoul Real Estate Development for breaching environmental conditions for its project on the island.

He said Freesoul’s original plans had been rejected in December last year after an environmental impact assessment found they would be too destructive.

Fiji’s chief prosecutor says it’s likely Freesoul will face further charges.

The government was forced to disclose it had filed for prosecution in September after a report by the New Zealand website Newsroom last week.

Christopher Pryde said the charges relate to its failure to comply with a government prohibition notice and to obtain environmental consent to build.

He said the company’s offending appears to be ongoing.

Under Fiji law, Freesoul and its directors could face fines of up to US$352,000 or up to or 10 years imprisonment.

- RNZP/PNC