Tanoliu community allege construction company rent arreas

North Efate’s community of Tanoliu has raised concerns over what it says is unpaid rent by the Nawae Construction Company which has been repairing bridges damaged by Cyclone Pam in 2015.

The community says Nawae Construction, which is a Papua New Guinea based company, has stopped paying rent on land where its machines are stored.

The company was contracted by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company to work on the cyclone bridge rebuilding project.

Wilson Popovi, who is one of four chiefs in Tanoliu Village, says the company signed a contract with the Tanoliu community in 2018 to use some of the community’s land to store their machinery and equipment.

Chief Popovi says the company paid VT40,000 per month to the chiefs of Tanoliu to keep the machines and tools on land and at sea.

“In the contract they agreed to pay rent of VT40,000 per month to the four chiefs of Tanoliu community,” Chief Popovi said.

He says when the company’s contract ended in 2019, all company workers went back to Papua New Guinea but tools and machinery were left behind at Tanoliu.

Chief Popovi says the company has not paid storage rental for almost a year.

“We are, for example, worried about a barge left behind by the company that is still moored here and has the potential to badly pollute or damage our pristine harbor if a cyclone occurs,” he said.

Chief Popovi says the barge is already polluting marine waters the area.

“Havanah Harbour waters are clean and every time I pass the Nawae Construction barge, I can see oil leaking from it into the sea. This is unsafe for marine life and resources,” he told VBTC.

Chief Popovi says the community has the right to take ownership of the barge and other equipment because the company has broken its contract by failing to pay rent.

The Director of the Department of Customs in Vanuatu, Harold Tarosa, says the equipment was to be stored in Tanoliu on a temporary basis while the company was working in the area.

He alleges the company has breached the law by keeping their equipment and machines in the country after its contract had ended.

He says the department is working with a company agent in Port Vila to record how many of the company’s tools and machines have been left in Efate.

“When this process is complete, we hope to be able to address the concerns of the Tanoliu chiefs,” Mr Tarosa said.

He says the Government will negotiate with the company and will decide whether to ship the machines back to PNG; fine the company for breach of contract; or seize the tools and equipment.

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