SUNBIZ

Grace Road Halts Yasawas Resort

Why should I pay? Says Daniel Kim, after threat from some landowners.
03 May 2020 12:13
Grace Road Halts Yasawas Resort
Abandoned construction site at Champagne beach in Yasawa-i-rara.

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.”

Grace Road Group president Daniel Kim.

Grace Road Group president Daniel Kim.

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 Yasawa-i-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.

Seremaia Tuiteci.

Seremaia Tuiteci.

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

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.”

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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