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Former plantation encompassed thousands of acres

By Ednal Palmer HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 30, 2011) – A number of investors are ready to take on advanced redevelopment plans for the Russell Islands, says Prime Minister Danny Phillip.

The Prime Minister revealed this during the signing of an agreement last Friday which will see Russell Island Plantation Estates Limited company (RIPEL) surrendering all its assets including land in the Russell Islands to the government.

[PIR editor’s note: The Russell Islands are located northwest of Guadalcanal island in the Solomons. PIR records indicate that the RIPEL plantation property measured between 5,000 and 10,000 hectares of land, approximately 12,355 to 24,710 acres, primarily for copra and coconut products, but also for smaller cocoa farming. In late 2010, the Solomon Islands government was unable to resuscitate RIPEL, and upon having failed to make the appropriate payments, would lose control over holdings in the venture. However, in June 2011, shareholders in the plantation company gave unanimous support for a settlement in which the government would take total control, after agreements are complete and mortgage paid to Pacific Finance. One landowner said the deal might be worth US$4 million. ]

Mr. Phillip said investors have already shown interest. "So far some six to seven investors have shown interest," he said. He said the government has in place a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the Russell Islands. "For now, the government will put a special administrator on Yandina to oversee things for time being," Mr. Phillip said. "We have also done some temporary rezoning of Yandina to reserve parts of the island where certain industries will take place. We have allocated a substantial coastline on Mbanika Island for tourism development. We also allocate land for a golf course, the state will be taking over the runway and improve it. We have also allocated a place for the Central Business District (CBD), commercial areas, housing and institutions such as the hospital and improvement of Havuna School."

The signing of the agreement and payment which will be made no later than September 2, 2011, means that all RIPEL assets including land in the Russell Islands will be owned by the government. RIPEL also have some assets in Lungga on Guadalcanal Province. However, these are separate from the settlement deal.

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