Vanuatu Custom Landowners Fight Malapoa Marina Construction

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Ownership of contested area near existing harbor questioned

By Bob Makin

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, April 30, 2012) – Custom owners of Ifira in Vanuatu are opposed to the Atmaru Quay plan for Malapoa. The project claims to be ready to supply a "quality resort-marina complex" at the site. It will require 40,000 square meters from the surrounding Vila Harbour. It is located immediately seawards of the Peacock estate at Malapoa which became highly controversial as a land issue just before Vanuatu’s Independence.

The Melanesian Progressive Party has taken up the custom owners’ concerns saying "We do not need foreigners or outsiders to come and interfere with our reefs. If the area is to be reclaimed, we as the custom land owners are the only ones who will do it."

A meeting is scheduled for this morning (Saturday 28 April) at Shefa to hear submissions from the general public concerning the site and private project for it.

The custom owners say they were never consulted in the matter and they object to their land being sold away by "corrupt politicians and civil servants."

The custom owners acknowledge that Teriki Mantoi Kalsakau III Paunimanu has given consent to the reclamation, but they point out that the area is not owned by Ifira Trustees and therefore not subject to his approval, nor the trust’s articles of association nor the country’s land laws.

A lively public debate is expected to center around the issue as it has done with the proposal for Vatumauru Bay.

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