But chief raises concerns about impact on villagers
The Waterfront final plan was officially released and distributed yesterday at the Samoa Tourism Authority Samoa Cultural Village.
In launching the plan, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi praised the project born five years ago to seek tenders to improve the attractiveness of Apia.
“We ask you to open your minds with the possibilities that can transform our existing city into an enjoyable and functional place that is well thought out and designed,” he said.
“More technical assessment and detailed designs will need to be undertaken before any of these ideas take place.
“These illustrations allow us to visualise how we can raise the standard of our city and entertain different ideas for the four waterfront areas.”
According to the Prime Minister, the waterfront plan provides a packaged implementation approach to develop the capital works.
“This approach will allow potential investors and development partners to implement a defined package of works within a particular area.
“The Government has already received interest from some of our development partners to develop parts of the waterfront in accordance with our principles and concept designs provided in the plan.
“With the launching of the plan, I anticipate more interest and we will continue to work with all our stakeholders in implementing this plan and to create a waterfront that is attractive safe and unique giving all who visit Apia memorable experiences.”
However, a chief from the village of Apia has raised concerns about the project.
While Lima Soifua Efu supports the initiative, he was more concerned about balancing of the cultural aspects of the village life with what the government wants.
Lima told the Samoa Observer there needs to be guidelines for tourists to follow when they are relaxing on the Waterfront beaches. His concern was mainly on young children who are exposed to tourists’ sun tanning on the beach almost naked. He also made reference to the number of crimes in Apia.
“Our village covers Matautu all the way to Mulinu’u,” said Lima.
“The impact of this project is big especially that it is in our village. I worry about girls who come and lie on the beach and our children are walking across from the road and seeing them in their bikinis.
“How can our children feel safe when they see this infront of their own homes?
“There are young youths who are roaming around town and if they came across such a view that will be another problem especially with the growing number of crimes in Apia that we hear on the news everyday.
“A village boy who would come across a palagi lying there on the beach with little they wear they will probably watch them all day and go home when its dark…the effect is big and we need regulations for tourists to follow so we can protect our children and our people.”
Lima said Samoa being a Christian country they follow Christian values.
“If this is what the government wants then they have the responsibility to setup guidelines or rules to inform tourists of what to do and what not to do,” he said.
“We have to be mindful of our families in Savai’i and the rural villages. We are not the only people that come to town – they too will come to Apia and if they see things like that I am worried that we are moving away from our own cultural values and our sacred ways.”
Another area that Lima touched on is alcohol control. He said if Apia was to become the tourist hotspot there will also be a big demand in alcohol. This will compound problems already existing.
“In reality they (clubs) don’t close at 12,” he said. “They go up to 1 o’clock and later than that and our concern is the need to control liquor and crimes.
“How can we look at something big like this if we cannot control the current situation? How can we feel safe from more crimes despite having a great plan for our waterfront…we are the people that are directly affected because we live here and we see the crimes and see the damages and our village gets the blame when they are people from around the island.”
Lima said he is not against the initiative but emphasised that the cry for money should not be the reason to forget and lose our cultural values.
The matai added their concerns have been passed on to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. What he was told by the Ministry is they will try.
“Trying is not good enough for us,” he said.
“They have to do it because trying is saying that they are considering it rather than doing it.”
Tuilaepa recalled that there were 14 companies that bid for the waterfront project five years ago. The idea is for an interested company to work on improving the waterfront, funding it from their own money and after they recover their costs they hand over the project to government.
He explained that none of them offered an explanation of how they will fund the plan. Tuilaepa then wrote to them to explain this area in which none of them wrote back.
Later on a “good Samaritan” wrote to him asking about what happened to the project.
From then contacts was made with New Zealand High Commission and $10 million was injected into the project to kick start it.
“The city plan is from Vaiala to Mulinuu and it will improve the public spaces,” said Tuilaepa.
In 2012 after cyclone Evans, there were a lot of sand washed up infront of Aggie Grey’s and Cabinet then made the decision that no one can take the sand and that beach became the first part of the waterfront project.
“We now also have kids playground infront of Tanoa Tusitala.”
About the playground, Tuilaepa said he drove past it on Friday last week and saw a man and his girlfriend swinging on the swings.
As he made his way to the government building he decided to turn back keeping in mind that one of the swings had recently broke.
“I went back and told him that the swings is not for couples, its for kids that are four years old. That is why we have arranged for people to look after it so that it will not be ruined.”
Tuilaepa said just last month another good Samaritan offered to work on the plan for the area where the S.T.A. is and government building.
He said it was the Chinese and they will be given the plan to base their sketches on and for government to review it before it can go ahead.