Work on Chinese farm on French Polynesia's Hao set to begin

2:44 pm on 18 January 2019

Reports from French Polynesia say work on the delayed Chinese fish farm on Hao atoll is set to begin in earnest in about three months as the investors again seek to modify the project.

Hao atoll

Hao atoll Photo: Google Maps

The Chinese company Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods plans to set up a $US320 million fish farm on the atoll, which used to be a base for the French military's nuclear weapons tests.

Tahiti-infos reported that 240 containers are due to arrive in April in Hao to start building the South Pacific's biggest fish farm.

According to a consultant Mara Aitamai of the company MDM, work should then start on building a power plant for the site which has been cleared and cleaned by the French Polynesian government and the French military.

News of the 240 containers' planned arrival comes as unions in Papeete object to the materials being sent from China directly to Hao.

According to senior union leader Mahinui Temarii, there is an agreement with the territorial government that international shipments need to be processed in Papeete.

The consultant has also told Tahiti-infos that Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods will apply for permits to alter the layout of the fish enclosures by making them smaller but constructing more of them.

It is not known how long it will take for the permits to be issued but in November, the government officially approved the original project and agreed to allow the company to expand to other atolls in the Tuamotus.

Last April, the government had already granted Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods a 30-year tax holiday on the importation of materials and fuel.

For the mayor of Hao Theodore Tuahine the delays of the project have been frustrating.

He said he is being treated as if he were a liar because promised jobs have not eventuated and he now worries that people who had voted for him won't be hired and therefore continue in their misery.

In 2015, Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods said 800 workers about 600,000 tonnes of material would be sent to Hao.

People were being told that once finished, the facilities should be able to employ about 10,000 people.

There has been widespread criticism of the project on social media.

The opposition has questioned its economic and environmental viability and doubts the project will get off the ground.

Mr Aitamai is confident that the project will succeed and says in five years Hao will be a magnificent atoll.

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