GRACE ROAD HALTS RE­SORT

It claims threats from some landown­ers

Fiji Sun - - FRONT PAGE - FRED­ER­ICA ELBOURNE Feed­back: fred­er­ica.elbourne@fi­jisun. com.fj

Grace Road Group will not con­tinue its re­sort de­vel­op­ment on Cham­pagne beach in Ya­sawa-i-rara amidst claims its work­ers were threat­ened by landown­ers.

Group pres­i­dent Daniel Kim made the com­ment yes­ter­day and said con­struc­tion work­ers on the site were phys­i­cally abused by landown­ers over the past three years. He said he saw no rea­son to set­tle an out­stand­ing debt of $299, 223 to landown­ers for a lease on the site. When first ap­proached about the progress of de­vel­op­ment on Cham­pagne beach, Mr Kim said work on the con­struc­tion of the re­sort was sus­pended be­cause of coro­n­avirus. But when asked over the un­paid pre­mium, Mr Kim said trou­ble de­vel­oped when some landown­ers wanted Grace Road Group off the is­land.

“Why should we pay? They broke the law first. They threat­ened with a knife. Why should I pay them? Why should I give money to some­one who threat­ened me be­fore that, for some­one who doesn’t want to de­velop, who doesn’t want to move for­ward?”

He said a barge car­ry­ing items for de­vel­op­ment on the is­land was met with knife-wield­ing landown­ers. “They punched our peo­ple,” he said.

“They pushed our peo­ple.

“We are the vic­tims.”

He said the mat­ter was not re­ported to Po­lice be­cause Grace Road Group and the landown­ers of Cham­pagne beach were Chris­tians.

How­ever, later in the in­ter­view, he re­ferred The Fiji Sun to Po­lice.

Ques­tions sent to Fiji Po­lice pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer Ana Naisoro re­mained unan­swered when this edi­tion went to press.

Mr Kim claimed Grace Road Group in­vested more than $3 mil­lion on the re­sort, in­clud­ing ma­chin­ery that re­mains at the con­struc­tion site.

He said he tem­po­rar­ily stopped de­vel­op­ment on the re­sort, af­ter which he was in­formed by landown­ers to quit the de­vel­op­ment. “This is not about the money,” he said.

The out­stand­ing sum - TLTB

The iTaukei Land Trust Board said the tourism lease was re-en­tered and a new 99-year term lease was of­fered to and ac­cepted by Grace Road Group.

The lease was ef­fec­tive from Jan­u­ary 1, 2017, TLTB said.

The out­stand­ing lease monies or pre­mium owed to the landown­ers of

mataqali Nainaso-i-yata in Ya­sawai-Rara to date is around $299,223. The to­tal pre­mium levied to Grace Road Group was $706,093 and is on part pay­ment mode, TLTB said.

The out­stand­ing sum was to be set­tled by Jan­u­ary 1, 2021, TLTB said, adding: “Our team met with the lessee (Grace Road Group) last week where they were re­minded of their roles as a ten­ant of TLTB.”

Where’s our money? ask landown­ers

Turaga ni yavusa Ya­sawa Sere­maia Tuiteci said the deal to de­velop Cham­pagne beach was ap­proved by his older brother who died in

2017.

Mataqali Nainaso-i-yata in Ya­sawa-i-rara is one of four clans that fall un­der the lead­er­ship of yavusa

Ya­sawa.

When Mr Tuiteci re­placed his brother as clan leader, he ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure with Grace Road Group’s de­vel­op­ment in Ya­sawa-irara.

He said landown­ers of the re­spec­tive mataqali con­tin­ued to ap­proach him for pre­mi­ums they claimed were not paid.

“I did not agree with their busi­ness model,” he said.

“While we wel­come for­eign in­vestors, we felt there were sin­is­ter in­ten­tions linked to Grace Road for their in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion.

“The is­land is small, but the de­vel­op­ment Grace Road had in mind would have lim­ited the islanders and other in­vestors ac­cess to cer­tain ar­eas on Cham­pagne beach. “There was also con­cern over the en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print.”

Aban­doned con­struc­tion site at Cham­pagne beach in Ya­sawa-i-rara.

Grace Road Group pres­i­dent Daniel Kim.

Sere­maia Tuiteci

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