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By Joe Harry

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, April 13) – A proposed plan to develop one of the finest luxury resorts in the South Pacific is currently under threat on Aore Island in Vanuatu.

[PIR editor’s note: Aore Island is a small island just southeast of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.]

Lapita Plantation Resort owner Matthew Woon told Daily Post his employees have received threats and as a result have not turned up for work. The proposed project will be built on 327 hectares [882 acres] block of land.

Mr. Woon also said his bulldozer and other heavy machineries have had to cease operations temporarily last week—causing major setbacks on the project. He believed the threats were coming from people from Tutuba Island—an offshore island to Aore.

Woon is disappointed that the incidents are occurring at this stage of the project and he suspected that there might be someone behind the locals’ actions.

The project has the potential to create well over 175 jobs for Ni Vanuatu. He said he could have easily made money by subdividing and selling all plots of land back home. However, he said he is not choosing that option and appealed to people nearby to respect the project.

While commenting on the issue, Director of Lands Michael Mangawai said Woon has all legal documents and he is the legal proprietor of the land title 04/3033/005 on Aore where Lapita Plantation Resort is situated. He also warned that Woon has all the rights under the law to prosecute anyone if he wished to.

"People must respect the property or risk being prosecuted," said Mangawai.

Woon said this is a big project and the construction work alone will boost the local building industry and provide further opportunities for citizens interested in making a living through the hospitality industry.

Police in Luganville have advised Daily Post that they have not received any formal complaints over the incident happening just across the harbor on Aore Island.

The project will take about four years to complete and will cost 6 billion Vanuatu vatu [US$56 million], said Woon. Once completed the luxury resort will consist of 95 water front blocks, 101 internal blocks with water viewing, 8 luxury water front blocks, and 10 hectares [24 acres] sites with water frontage, according to their official web site.

Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority advised that Mathew Woon is their client and they are aware of the investment he was involved in on Aore. "We are not aware of the situation Woon is currently facing with his investment. However, because Woon has complied with procedures and remains our client we have an obligation to assist in solving the problem," said Reginald Tabi of Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority.

April 17, 2006

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