4 Jan 2024

Pacific news in brief for January 4

11:19 am on 4 January 2024

Photo: RNZ

Solomon Islands - arson

Solomon Islands police have arrested a 17-year-old girl for burning down a dwelling house two days before Christmas.

The provincial police commander said the motive was a family issue.

The girl has been charged with arson and released on bail.

She is set to appear before the Gizo Magistrates' Court on February 26th.

The commander said the investigation is ongoing.

Vanuatu - farming

A Vanuatu farmer is calling for resources from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forestry and Biosecurity to tackle the fall armyworm and cocount rhinoceros beetle.

Vuster Kalhu said Vanuatu is struggling with both natural and man-made disasters and he is worried about the impact of these on the agricultural sector, which he believed plays a vital role in the country's economy.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported Kalhu said as a farmer, he is deeply concerned because if they are not careful, they will lose everything and they will lose their resources, and people will go hungry.

Kahlu called on the Ministry, the Council of Ministers, and the national government to increase the budget allocated to the ministry this year.

AUKUS - US personnel

The Australian Defence Force expects more than 700 American personnel to be stationed in Western Australia as part of the AUKUS deal.

ABC News reports the figures are projections from briefing notes released by the newly created Australian Submarine Agency.

Among the 700 or so United States personnel, 'a small' United Kingdom contingent could also be living in Australia.

On top of that, the notes stated, there are plans for low-level radioactive waste to be stored at Defence sites including a new management facility in Perth.

The first nuclear-powered submarines are expected to arrive in Western Australia from 2027.

Northern Mariana Islands - casino in trouble

A casino on Saipan, in the Northern Marianas is in jeopardy of losing its license after it missed a financial deadline.

Imperial Pacific International casino had been given until December 30, 2023, to pay US$62 million in overstanding casino license fees to the Commonwealth Casino Commission.

The Commission had issued a 30-day notice of payment on November 30, 2023.

The casino's director Howyo Chi said the Commission has set a hearing to cancel its casino license at the end of this month.

The casino is mired in lawsuits both locally and internationally.

Hawai'i - wildfire debris

Maui residents are divided on where to put ash and debris from last August's devastating wildfires.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is working to clear approximately 400,000 cubic yards of ash and debris from Lāhainā as quickly as possible so residents can begin the rebuilding process.

Hawai'i News Now reported concerns have been raised about the temporary disposal site, cultural landmarks in the area, the health and safety of the environment, and the people who live in Olowalu.

County officials said the debris they plan to bring is not considered hazardous.

At a Maui County Council meeting on Tuesday, members reviewed the possible temporary and final debris disposal sites, the differences between the two and how the debris will be transported.

It was standing room only as council members heard from more than 100 testifiers on the subject.

Construction has already begun in Olowalu for a temporary storage site for Lāhainā fire debris.

A permanent location has not been chosen yet.

However, many fear the temporary site will inevitably become permanent.

There will be another meeting about another possible solution on Wednesday next week, before the council makes a decision on Friday, January 12th.