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Landowners of Funafuti have reassured the people of Tuvalu the payment for land leased by government has been resolved for the time being, however negotiations with the new government will continue after the election in September.
The reassurance came from Member for Funafuti, Simon Kofe who represented the landowners of Funafuti in the negotiations with government.
In an interview with Radio Tuvalu, Kofe said the blockade of the airfield by Funafuti landowners was due to mounting frustrations caused by the delay from government for a new agreement for the lease of land belonging to the landowners that is used for government offices and for national development purposes.
According to Kofe, the 25 year government lease signed in 1992 expired in 2017.
He explained to Radio Tuvalu, in the Memorandum of Acquisition (MOA) in 2015 for the continuation of the use of the airfield, the Government committed to sort out the lease of the airfield as well as the lease of other land on the island used by Government.
Last year, landowners decided not to accept any further lease payment from Government as the MOA expired in 2017.
The Tuvalu Government had increased lease payment from AUD$3,000 (US$2,110) to AUD$3,500 (US$2,461) per acre.
Kofe said the landowners were frustrated because the negotiations were conducted by officials who do not have the mandate to make decisions.
He claimed there was no transparency from Government on documents that landowners wanted to see, including the report made by the consultant on the market value of lands on Funafuti. He said government didn’t allow its consultant to meet with Funafuti landowners who wanted to ask questions on recommendations made in the report.
For now, Funafuti landowners have settled for the last offer from Government of AUD$4,000(US$2,813) per acre and the Memorandum of Understanding was signed last Saturday to cover the period from 2017 until 31 August.
“Funafuti is looking at a new rate of $5800 (US$4,074) per acre, as in marketing, the higher the demand for the product the more value it has, according to Kofe, and will continue its negotiations when the new government comes in.
“Funafuti landowners only agreed to the offer because the government is now in caretaker mode, but hopes to continue negotiations with the new government after general elections in September this year, Kofe said.
In addition, Kofe said they are also mindful of the regional meeting that Tuvalu will be hosting in August. Tuvalu will host the 50th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Funafuti from 12-16 of next month.
SOURCE: RADIO TUVALU/PACNEWS
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