Troubled Momi project springs back to life

Fletcher to built Marriott resort

The troubled Momi Bay Resort Development Project is making a comeback seven years after it fell apart due to financial turmoil which landed the Fiji National Provident Fund in hot water. The comeback is going to cost FNPF an estimated US$101 million with the construction contract being awarded to New Zealand company Fletcher who will finish the partially built resort over the next two years.

The financial injection is a new lease of life to help change the project’s image from being a ‘ghost town’ to becoming the next big tourism attraction. Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama re-launched the development last month almost two years after his government had announced US$76 million backing towards its revival. “Today, we draw a line under that failure and celebrate a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of this project, just as we celebrate the revival of the fortunes of our nation – a booming economy and our new and vibrant democracy,” Bainimarama said at the relaunching on November 13th. The Momi Project has a dreadful history which goes back more than a decade to when the initial developers Matapo Limited started construction on the site.

The developer’s parent body was financial company Bridgecorp based in New Zealand which collapsed in 2007 suffering from huge financial losses. This led to the eventual demise of the Momi Bay Resort Development however when Bridgecorp went into receivership, its receivers tried to recover money for the 14,360 Brdigecorp investors. In 2009 FNPF unsuccessfully tried to sell the development during an auction when bidding stopped at US$18 million which was far below their expectations. The following year the government introduced the Momi Bay Development Decree giving ownership to FNPF amidst legal battle for the property.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to come and buy it almost for a song they thought FNPF wanted to get rid of it and then there was very little money that was offered so at that stage we said we would rather not give it away we would take the burden and develop it ourselves,” FNPF Chairman Ajith Kodagoda said. FNPF spent US$3 million last year to do lagoon rehabilitation as part of initial ground work before construction. Kodagoda said the construction phase which was due to start earlier this year was delayed three months while they waited on the results of the September General Elections.

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