China's Hao fish farm deal finalised

5:11 pm on 11 April 2018

The French Polynesian government has formally approved the terms for the construction of a $US320 million Chinese fish farm on Hao atoll in the Tuamotu group.

In the official journal, the government has detailed the conditions for Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods to set up and operate its aquaculture project.

Chinese delegation visiting Hao atoll, June 2014

Chinese delegation visiting Hao atoll, June 2014 Photo: Photo courtesy of Govt of French Polynesia

The government has given the company a raft of concessions in an effort to encourage foreign investment and job creation.

After years of negotiations, the government has agreed to exempt Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods from any tax for 30 years on the importation of materials and fuel.

It has agreed to several other tax holidays for a period of ten years after the project has been completed.

Costs incurred so far are not tax-free.

The fish farm is projected to create about 200 jobs for French Polynesians during the construction period after which about 600 permanent jobs are expected to be created.

With the exception of some Chinese technicians, staff are to be recruited locally and be subject to French Polynesian social security provisions and labour laws.

The investment of $US320 million covers fish cages, storage facilities, accommodation, power and desalination plants and a fleet of boats as well as ships to carry frozen fish to Papeete.

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Photo: Presidence Polynesie francaise

Last week, the Chinese consul told Tahiti-infos that when Chinese businesses invest abroad, the respect the principle of using local resources and hiring local people.

The company Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods, which was formed in 2014 as a subsidiary of the Chinese Tian Rui group, chose Hao in part because its runway is long enough to accommodate planes which can freight the fish directly to China.

It was planned to build 2,800 cages to farm fish, prawns and sea cucumbers for export, with an annual fish production target of 50,000 tonnes.

Hao, which is about 1,000 kilometres from Tahiti, was the forward base of the French military when it conducted its nuclear weapons tests on Morurua and Fangataufa atolls from 1966 to 1996.

Originally, the project was said to be worth about $US1.4 billion, and three years ago, it was still claimed to be able to employ about 10,000 people.

After visiting China in 2016, the French Polynesian president Edouard Fritch said about $US760 million would be invested over two to three years.

Now, the agreement is for $US320 to be invested, with the government expected to spend $US5 million to build a road on Hao.

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