Dec 19, 2018 Last Updated 6:44 PM, Dec 16, 2018

Derailed by the huge devastation wrought by super-cyclone Winston in 2016. Fiji’s exclusive J. Hunter Pearls is back on the path of restoring what it lost and at the same time doubled up on its efforts in ocean conservation.

In addition to building back stronger by commissioning its new million dollar hatchery, J. Hunter Pearls through its principals Justin Hunter and wife Leanne have hit the road promoting their blue pledge concept.

“We lost 30km of long lines with some 120,000 young oysters, our showroom destroyed, jetty gone, and our hatchery completely destroyed. Loss of infrastructure, value of lost income puts at about F$6 million,” said Hunter. “This year and next will see us producing roughy just 1 / 5 of expected pearls.”

Instead of throwing in the towel, Hunter resolved in a meeting with his 51-member staff after Winton that they would rebuild and continue to grow the business located in the coastal town of Savusavu in northern Fiji.

“This is about resilience, about people about island communities that have a very few options for earning foreign exchange,”

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Unconfirmed reports have emerged that the Grand Pacific Hotel (GPH) in Fiji is now fully owned by the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF).

The historic building, local landmark and well known icon of South Pacific tourism has been the subject of months of negotiation among its three shareholders – the FNPF (25%), Papua New Guinea’s National Superannuation Fund (NASFUND - 50%) and PNG-based property development firm Lamana Development (25%).

It is understood the PNG partners were divesting, barely 10 years after they bought into it and that FNPF was in talks with them for a total buyout.

Although no official word has been issued, sources close to the negotiations informed Islands Business that the deal had closed and that the PNG partners were treated to a farewell dinner. All three parties remained tightlipped on the development and questions sent to them remained unanswered.

NASFUND had bought into GPH in 2010 for a reported F$90 million (USD42.23m), which included 50 per cent of the businesses and refurbishing the building, which had remained derelict and empty ever since the Nauru Government, which had previously owned it via its Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust, bought it in 1988 but could not keep up with the deterioration until it had to close it in 1992.

The Fijian Government of 2000, under Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry expropriated the property just before the coup of that year.

The plan to restore the then derelict building was taken up by successive governments, which finally led to FNPF’s involvement in its ownership in 2005, when the property was bought by a joint venture between the now scrapped FNPF Investment Ltd (80%) and the now disbanded Fiji Investment Corporation Ltd (20%), a former government investment vehicle operational under Laisenia Qarase’s prime ministership.

It is not known how much the PNG owners have now sold their shares for and if they have managed to recover their investments.

Now redesigned and refurbished, the ‘Grand Ole Lady’, as the GPH is more commonly referred to, was built in 1914 by Union Steamship Company and sits on a portion of over two hectares of land along the foreshore of Suva harbour.

PORT Moresby, Papua New Guinea - Only four Observers have been reported missing in foreign fishing vessels and not 18 says the country’s fisheries and marine resources minister, Patrick Basa. He made the clarification in response to assertions by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird that up to 18 Papua New executive Mike Johnston says. Johnston said that the company was working with its financial advisers to find the additional financing.

During a recent meeting with the Mining Minister Johnson Tuke, Johnston said: “For the project, the final capital we need to raise an additional roughly about US$250 million. And then there is working capital and exploration that we intend to do which brings it up to about US$300 million. That’s the final capital,” Johnston said. Meanwhile, the company is confident that the Solwara 1 project will go ahead as planned. Johnston said the project is set for production next year.

Fiji retired teachers off to Kiribati Suva, Fiji - Ten retired teachers will soon leave for Kiribati to work for two years under the Fiji Volunteer Services Scheme. This is after the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Fijian government and the government of Kiribati last month. 

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Bougainville says no

The Bougainville Autonomous Government has rejected the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) Panguna mining license bid following divisions among landowners. According to BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock, the Bougainville Government said “it was a tight split between approval for mining and non-approval for mining and as it was too close, they felt that it might lead to conflict.”

“There are small groups of opposition but there is always mining and those opinions have to be listened to and understood, but as a general rule we see strong support for mining and for Bougainville Copper,” Hitchcock said. The Bougainville Government also recently imposed a moratorium on any company restarting mining at the site. Hitchcock said BCL would continue discussions with the Bougainville Government and wouldn’t abandon plans to restart the mine. He said it was up to the landowners, who have the final and ultimate say on whether they go for mining and who they go mining with.

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Fiji airport disruptions

Nadi, Fiji - Ground-handling of aircraft at Fiji’s largest airport Nadi were disrupted a week before Christmas (and disruptions continued as we went to press) following a dispute between workers and the groundhandling company. National airlines, Fiji Airways had to deploy its own staff to meet and service its fleet of aircraft, including checking in outbound passengers.

Management of Air Services Terminal – the ground handling contractor at Nadi International Airport accused its workers of staging a lightning strike when they walked off their jobs on 16 December, a charge employees rejeted.

They said those who left work were also shareholders of the company and they had gone to attend a shareholding meeting. On their return two hours later, management had locked the main gate to their office and attempted to serve them with suspension letters....

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