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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Taimi o Tonga, May 16) - A land deal between the Tongan government and Hawaii’s premier landlord, Bishop Estate, is turning sour due to non-payment of the lease.

It is reported the real estate giant has taken back some of the 1,000 acres of leased agricultural land, and may seize a lot belonging to the Tongans with an estimated value of $500,000.

The land deal was initiated by King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV in 1992 as a farming project for Tongans on the northern side of the island of Oahu to grow pineapples and other cash crops.

The idea as stated by the king on many public occasions was not only to earn money for Tonga but also to provide employment for some of the Tongans living on Oahu.

Over $3 million is reported to have been spent on the project, not only in the land lease but also in wage payments and other expenditures.

Government officials from Tonga have also made frequent trips to Honolulu to assist in the project. These officials included surveyors and agriculturists, as well as officials from the Prime Minister’s office.

But the 1,000 acres leased from Bishop Estate is said to be on the verge of being repossessed due to non-payment of the lease.

Tongatapu member of Parliament, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who recently visited Oahu to investigate the agricultural project, told Taimi ‘o Tonga the piece of land that is owned by the Tongan government is in danger of being seized by creditors.

"This project is a failure and an absolute waste of money and man-power. I understand the debts are over US$300,000 now," he said.

"There is no farming project, the government is owing money to the management in back-pay, and the land is about to be repossessed."

Pohiva sees this Tonga-Hawaii project as just another one of the king’s many failed schemes, only that it is costing Tonga’s taxpayers, and it comes at the same time the national economy is being dragged into a critical state, made worse by the Royal Tongan Airlines debacle.

May 17, 2004

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