Work by Freesoul Real Estate deemed illegal
November 19, 2020 4:50 pm
The first state witness in the case against Freesoul Real Estate Development Limited today testified work done by the company on Malolo Island had been deemed illegal.
Environment Officer Kelera Tokalau gave her account of the matter in Suva Magistrates Court today.
Tokalau said she visited the site four times and only during her first visit was the site in its pristine natural state.
Freesoul Real Estate faces one count of undertaking unauthorized development and failure to comply with a prohibition notice.
It’s alleged the developer carried out work on the dry land at Wacia on Malolo Island without an approved Environment Impact Assessment Report.
In court today, Tokalau said on August 1st, 2017, she visited the site and back then there was no development.
She says the company was expected to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment, however, from her second to fourth visits she noted the company had already started working.
Tokalau told the court that the work included the creation of a channel, access roads, staff quarters and even the raising of the foreshore level. She also noted construction materials stacked on the shore.
She told the court this work took place despite no EIA report or approval and therefore the Department deemed the work illegal.
Meanwhile, the defense lawyer put to Tokalau that all this work – including the development of a channel to the ocean were in the submitted screening report.
Tokalau agreed, however, she says an EIA report and approval are needed for any work, to begin.
The defense lawyer then put to Tokalau that the materials on the shore were for a nearby village school and the channel was needed to offload them.
Tokalau says she became aware on her third visit saying that the offloading could be done at high tide without the channel.
She also confirmed that her contact has been one Manasa Tawake who confirmed receiving the prohibition notice and had responded via phone call and email.
If the company is convicted it will face fines up to $750,000 or a term of up to 10-years imprisonment for its directors.
The trial continues tomorrow.