Posts Tagged ‘Great Wall of Mele’

The Great Wall of Mele

The day before yesterday, Friday the 17th, I was set upon by about fifteen construction workers from the Wong development (pictured above, on 1st July). I was assaulted, verbally abused, threatened with violence, agressively pushed against “The Wall”, had my camera stolen by one of my cowardly, bullying attackers and had one of these so-called “men” attempt to take the keys out of the ignition in an effort to stop me from drivng away after the assault. That summarizes what happened to me while I was on the roadside (public property) attempting to take a photo of the Building Permit sign and the building progress. For the background to this, please read on (it’s a long but essential story that needs telling).

The general media, most notably in the form of the Vanuatu Daily Post and The Independent, has published various articles decrying this particularly distasteful development ever since work started on it a couple of years back. It is no wonder that they did so. The area in question used to be one of the most popular tourist stopping-off points on the island providing a magical view of Hideaway Island , the bay in general and through to the city of Port Vila.

It was also an extremely popular place for local villagers to go for beach picnics and other social occasions or just to swim and cool off on a hot day. Just as importantly, especially from a cultural and traditional perspective, this ugly edifice and the imposing and ratty wall that surrounds it, is being built immediately adjacent to the Mele Cemetery, a place meant to honour the deceased and where the deceased’s loved ones could go to visit their relatives’ resting places in serene surroundings.

In my view, the Shefa Provincial Government Council has been at fault from the very beginning in even allowing this development to commence. It’s bad enough that the Mele chiefs and the custom landowner were prepared to sell out their people and take from them something that was valuable, just for the sake of a few dollars (oh, look – I’ve got a brand new truck!) but for the Shefa Council to sit back and do nothing when the building of a THREE-STOREY edifice was underway, without approval, was to say the least, weak-kneed on their part.

After much publicity, the Shefa Council fined the developer, a Mr. Wong – owner of Wong’s Garage and South Pacific Hardware amongst others, 500,000 vatu (about AUD6,000.00) for building without a permit. Work then stopped at the site for awhile then lo and behold, Shefa Council announced that the fine had been reduced to a paltry 100,000 vatu (about AUD1,200.00) in return for a commitment from Wong to build a SINGLE-STOREY building only. That means a building consisting of a GROUND FLOOR only (more on that in an earlier Watcher article – “Who’s Pulling Whose Leg?”).

Following the abovementioned article, I had a meeting with the Shefa Council’s Head of their Development Committee. It was suggested by the Councillor that I attend a round-table conference of the relevant Shefa Council people, the Mele chief, the landowner and Mr. Wong. Following some persuasion on the Councillor’s part, I agreed to attend such a meeting provided that I would first be supplied with a copy of some documents pertinent to the development in question. Accordingly, on Monday, 6th July (two weeks ago), I wrote to the Head of Shefa Physical Planning Unit and Property Tax Office, Owen Sisi. Here is what I wrote……

Hello Owen.

In a conversation I had with Bob Homu on Saturday, we agreed to the holding of a meeting regarding the Wong development, one which would be attended by ALL parties involved. This would include:

  • Yourself
  • Bob Homu
  • Wong
  • The Mele Chiefs
  • The landowner of the site under discussion
  • A representative from the Department of Environment
  • Any other relevant member of the SPGC

I am open to any suggestions/recommendations regarding attendance by persons you feel could positively contribute to the discussion.

We also agreed that, prior to this meeting, a condition applicable to my attendance at same is that I would first be provided with the following documents (scanned copies of the originals, unaltered and in their entirety):

  1. Original Development Application, including Department of Lands Survey Plan
  2. Original SPGC Development Approval/Building Permit
  3. Renewal Development Application
  4. Renewal SPGC Development Approval/Building Permit
  5. Environment Impact Assessment Report.

It was also agreed that said documents would be provided to me in sufficient time for me to analyse them prior to the meeting.

My wish is to have the meeting recorded for future reference by all meeting attendees. This could be done by an experienced stenographer or in digital format, whichever is able to be arranged in a timely manner.

I look forward to your response accordingly in due course.

Respectfully yours,

Personal Signaturec

 

 

PHIL MANHIRE

As I write this, I haven’t yet received any response from Owen Sisi or indeed anyone else from the Shefa Council, not even an acknowledgment of my letter.

Given that the Shefa Council had chosen to ignore both the suggestion of Mr. Homu to have the meeting in the first instance and my acceptance of same (Mr. Homu, I must say, appeared to be genuinely concerned about the adverse publicity), it was then that I decided to stop and take a photo of the Building Permit sign along with a couple of photos of the ever-rising SECOND STOREY (on Friday). And that’s when I was assaulted and had my camera forcibly taken from me by the aforementioned workmen. According to the site’s security personnel, my camera was handed to Wong by the aggressors shortly after the assault.

A formal complaint has been lodged with the Police.

You, dear reader, will no doubt form your own opinion and conclusions about what has really taken place for the Shefa Council to allow the continuation of this unsightly and grossly inappropriate development (my opinion!). However, I ask you this question – “Why was this development allowed in the first instance and why is it that the parties involved appear to be running away from revealing the truth?”

To me, it is a question that must be addressed and to this end, investigations are already underway which hopefully will lead to some factual answers, with or without the co-operation of the parties involved.

Finally, I humbly ask that if you too wish to stop this unsightly development, please REGISTER YOUR PROTEST on the Shefa Provincial Council’s Facebook page and/or by phoning their Environment Unit Department on (+678)25302 and/or via their main switchboard number – (+678)22752.

Please – ACT NOW, before it’s too late!

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Corruption - Follow the Money Trail!

It has been said many times that to get to the bottom of corruption, follow the money trail!

That said, it’s high time someone did exactly that in relation to the Great Wall of Mele.

Originally, due to an onslaught of media pressure, the Shefa Provincial Government Council (SPGC) announced that a fine of 500,000 vatu had been imposed upon the builder of this popular tourism spot-destroying development – a proposal for a two-storey hotel/store.

A little while later, the SPGC was found to have reduced the fine from the half a million vatu to a paltry 100,000 vatu. They have stated since that in so doing, they had received a commitment from the developer to (a) demolish the ugly wall that confronts passersby every day and (b) only erect a single-storey building.

What a crock of BS that’s turned out to be! Here are some photos taken a week ago…..

The Great Wall of Mele June 2015 Mele Wall Development - 8 June 2015B Mele Wall Development - 8 June 2015C

The wall is STILL there! Not only that that, it has been extended using piles of solidified, bagged concrete – an absolute eyesore that has killed off one of Port Vila’s most popular tourism stopping points – a place where tourists could admire and take photos of Hideaway Island.

Single-storey? I’m no builder but even Blind Freddie could see that this is turning into a dual or multi-storey development. It’s also quite feasible that it will end up looking as ghastly as this same developer’s Airport Business Hotel eyesore at Tagabe roundabout.

The sand that’s being used for building also appears to be coming from the beach on which it is being built despite recent legislation that forbids the mining of this beach sand for commercial purposes.

Has an EIA been done by a reputable person/entity and made public? If not, why not?

The question is – “WHO has allowed this to happen and just as importantly, WHY?”

The feedback that I have had from a couple of reliable sources is that one or more senior SPGC were in debt to the developer and have quite possibly “done a deal” that favours all parties concerned in allowing this development to continue unimpeded.

Who has the power and/or willingness to investigate this issue?
Anyone?