Fiji’s Environment Department cancels EIA permit for developer

Damage to the mangroves on Malolo Island by Fresouls developers…the company has now been told to return the area to its natural state after their permit was cancelled by the Fijian Environment Department. Photo: NEWSROOM

Suva, Fiji – April 16, 2019: 11.45am (FBC NEWS): Fiji’s Environment Ministry warns that they will continue to take action against developers who will not comply with the law.

The warning came after Freesoul Real Estate Development Limited which was carrying out a resort development in Malolo Island, was ordered to rectify the breaches identified by the Ministry.

Minister responsible, Dr Mahendra Reddy says the Environment Compliance Inspection carried out in January, found that out of the 55 conditions – a total of 20 approvals for land based activities were breached.

Dr Reddy says all approval notices given to Freesoul Real Estate Development Limited for the resort development project on Malolo Island was canceled two weeks ago.

“Following the examination and gathering of information we than ask them to immediately to stop work. The environmental impact assessment that was approved has been cancelled and they now have to ensure that those breaches are rectified,” he said.

He said the company has been issued a list of areas which they need to work on.

“For example, if there is loss of mangrove so in the list that we have given them they need to plant mangroves so this are some of the things they need to do,” Dr Reddy said.

However, Environment Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Joshua Wycliffe said no specific time has been given to the company to rectify their mistakes as yet.

“There is no fixed time frame but we are waiting for the court order,” said Wycliffe.

Meanwhile, Freesoul is facing legal action after the office of the Director of Public Prosecution sanctioned charges against them.

They are charged with one count of undertaking unauthorized developments, and one count of failing to comply with an environmental prohibition notice.

A project officer with the company, Saula Sovanivalu, represented them at the Nadi Magistrates’ Court last month.

The case is now scheduled to be recalled on 26 April.

Dr Reddy confirms that all actions taken by the Department of Environment with regards to the development undertaken at Wacia in Malolo island by Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) Ltd to date are within the Environment Management Act (2005).

The Director of Environment issued a Prohibition Notice to the company on June 1, 2018 prohibiting the company from undertaking foreshore and construction related activities.

In addition, they were further instructed to rehabilitate the foreshore area.

Dr Reddy said a list of work that needs to undertake has been forwarded to the investor.

Despite the Prohibition Notice issued to the company on June 1, the company continued to carry out works at their project site.

The Department referred the matter to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on August 29, 2018.

The matter was called for first mention at the Nadi Magistrate Court in March and it has been adjourned to later this month.

Aerial view of the damage caused by Freesoul’s work on Malolo Island in Fiji. Photo: NEWSROOM

He said the company submitted their EIA Report and Addendum to the EIA report to the Department for land based and foreshore development for review and decision. After careful review process of the EIA report and the Addendum and in consultation with relevant experts (from the various NGOs, relevant Government Departments and academic institution), the Department reached a decision to approve only land based activities on December 24, 2018 with strict approval conditions. The Department issued a total of 55 approval conditions.

On January 31 2019, the Department of Environment Inspectors carried out an Environment Compliance Inspection.

The inspection confirmed that a total of 20 out of the 55 approval conditions for land based activities were breached.

Dr Reddy says they then wrote to the company informing them of the Ministry’s intention to cancel the company’s Land based EIA Approval on February 6 and allowed the company 14 days to respond.

The company’s lawyers responded on 27 February.

The Department then reviewed the submissions and made the decision to cancel the company’s land based approval on April 4, citing commencement of the construction activities onsite without submitting the Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) to the Department of Environment.

This in the Department’s opinion is a serious breach and will cause significant direct environmental impact(s) on land, the adjacent coastal and marine environment and the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana species and their habitat…..PACNEWS

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