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FIJI NEWS

PM steps in to end resort row

May 08
12:00 2010

Written By : KELERA SERELINI . The Prime Minister yesterday allowed an international film crew to enter Pacific Harbour’s Lagoon Resort after its premises were taken over by Fiji Development Bank.
Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama intervened after being asked for help. He quickly sorted out what threatened to become an embarrassing row for the tourism industry.
Lagoon Resort also houses the Beqa Adventure Divers shop, which contained equipment needed by the film crew.
They are here to film shark feeding as part of the eco-tourism programme in the Beqa waters.
It is to be broadcast by the French-German TV network ARTE.
Filming was to have started yesterday. But on Friday evening the bank moved in, took over the premises and shut down Lagoon Resort. It also prevented people entering the dive shop.
“It’s a pity I have just heard about it today,” Commodore Bainimarama said.
“If I was told earlier, then something would have been done about this confusion.”
Commodore Bainimarama said there will be talks with the Fiji Development Bank tomorrow to try to sort out the issues involved.
Meanwhile, 26 employees of the Lagoon Resort have been sent home. Guests have been relocated to the nearby Fiji Palms Beach Club.
No formal comments could be obtained from the bank yesterday. But it is understood the bank took action following a dispute involving the resort’s mortgage.
The resort’s operator, Jim Sherlock, said there had been a misunderstanding between the resort and the bank. This was over the resort’s plans to set up a timeshare apartments agreement for the resort, he said.
“I had approached the bank and told them that I couldn’t keep up with the full mortgage payment,” Mr Sherlock said.
“So, they have basically taken possession of the resort without informing me whether they have agreed for me to timeshare the resort.”
Mr Sherlock had been involved in the Pacific Harbour tourism business since 1988 when he took ownership of the Fiji Palms Beach Club.
He bought the Lagoon Resort in 2000.
Beqa Adventure Divers leases a portion of the Lagoon Resort property.
“The bank had completely disallowed anyone from entering the property and this includes the diving crew who were supposed to start filming today,” Mr Sherlock said.
“It is fair they close off the resort because of my unpaid mortgage but it is sad that they are going to stop this film crew from filming. This is totally a separate business.”
He said the resort lawyer hoped to obtain an injunction tomorrow restraining the bank.
Beqa Adventure Divers owner Mike Newman said the company was optimistic that the Fiji Development Bank would continue to allow Beqa Adventure Divers to operate from Lagoon Resort.
“We’re so grateful that the Prime Minister’s Officer and the Prime Minister himself had taken the time to sort this matter,” Mr Newman said.
“We’re all booked throughout the year, there are people who have come all over the world and we cannot afford to turn down more tourists.”
Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said he hoped this situation would be resolved amicably.
“Hopefully, good sense will prevail and this situation will be resolved soon,” Mr Seeto said.
“We’re hoping there will be an amicable and satisfactory solution that will not harm the Fiji tourism industry.”

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