12 Oct 2011

Deadline tightens for Pacific Arts Festival organisers in Solomons

4:37 pm on 12 October 2011

Organisers of the 2012 Pacific Arts Festival, to be hosted by Solomon Islands, will be racing the clock to complete preparations in time for the event, which is scheduled for the start of July.

Work on the festival village has halted in Honiara as the organisers and the school that owns the land on which the village is to be built renegotiate their contract.

The two parties disagree on the terms of a memorandum of understanding that was signed after months of negotiation in early September.

Kim Bowden reports.

Director of the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education Donald Malasa says he stopped construction work a few weeks after it began on the school field as festival organisers had failed to deliver on their side of the bargain.

"There was a clause there that before any work starts the committee should bring the plans to the college and discuss with the college but that didn't happen and I think that is why we decided to halt the work on the site."

Mr Malasa says fees initially decided on by festival organisers have also not been paid.

But festival director Robert Au says they are being renegotiated to reflect that the school will retain some of the building assets after the festival ends and see improvements to existing facilities.

Despite local concern that preparations for the festival are yet to get off the ground, Mr Au is confident the issues will be ironed out in the coming weeks, allowing building work to resume.

Though we are a little bit behind schedule, everything is in place. We will be sure that all things will be finished by March next year, that's the month that we are targeting. If anything, we are a little bit late, it will be by April, giving the months of May and June just to patch-up the remaining things for the festival, and then we will be waiting for the first delegations to arrive towards end of June next year.

A delegation from New Caledonia is in Honiara this week to check-in on how preparations are progressing and, although there is little to show-off, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's permanent secretary Luke Eta says things are under control.

From the standpoint of our friends around the Pacific region there will be some doubts but I can give confidence to everyone who wishes to participate that progress on the preparations are going well. We are hopeful that people who intend to come, must come.

Mr Eta confirms work should recommence shortly and the festival village will be starting to take shape when other Pacific delegations visit the site in coming months.

Up to 3000 performers are expected from 27 Pacific countries and territories for the event, with another 1000 spectators.