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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Feb. 19) – New Caledonia's multi-million aquarium project, which gets significant funding from the European Union, is facing significant delays.

When it was designed, the aquarium project, perceived to be a major boost to the French Pacific territory's capital, as scheduled to officially open late 2004, then the date was rescheduled to September 2006.

But since the foundation stone was laid late 2003 for the 10-million US dollar project, it has faced a series of setbacks.

These included major faults in the saltwater aquarium fittings: whereas the major building and infrastructure is now completed, water pumps ordered out of Europe turned out to be the wrongs one and were not designed for sea water.

In April last year, another incident saw the three main sea water pumps burst because they had not been installed properly, Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reported.

Local engineers have last week expressed frustration, saying the project has already required major revision of the design for the pools, filters and piping systems.

They also blamed the architects firm that was initially selected to supervise the project, but that was based in Chambéry (Southeast of France).

The French firm later had to sub-contract to other companies.

Local architect Alain Formis, who is now in charge of the project in Nouméa, said he believed one of the main reasons for these blunders was due to the fact that "everyone wanted to direct and conduct things they had no clue about."

The project's cost is now believed to have risen from the original 10 million US dollars to some 17 million US dollars.

However, technicians now said most of the technical problems have been solved and that the date for the official opening of the project could arrive within weeks.

No date has yet been announced.

The new 3,000 square meter Nouméa aquarium project gets some 6.2 million US dollars from Brussels as part of the EDF (European Development Fund).

The French Pacific territories benefit from the European Union’s Development Fund under the EU’s OCT (Overseas Countries and Territories) status.

The rest is provided by New Caledonia's government and local provincial and municipal authorities.

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