The Tausala Matiu Company of Satupaitea did not have a “development consent permit” to quarry soil at Tafua-tai on Savai’i.
The site was where a landslide occurred last Monday and killed three men and injured another two. The five men including the deceased were employees of the Tausala Matiu Company.
Responding to questions from the Samoa Observer, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) Chief Executive Officer Ulu Bismark Crawley, said a development consent is a permit issued by the planning and urban management agency (P.U.M.A.) – which comes under the Ministry – before development projects can start.
He said the M.N.R.E. is considering its options in light of last Monday’s landslide, including pursuing criminal charges against the company for working without a permit.
Repeated attempts to get comments from Kalapu Matiu since Tuesday have been unsuccessful.
A team comprising of officials from the P.U.M.A., the Disaster Management Office and the Geology and Land Sectors were in Savai’i on Tuesday to conduct an assessment.
When Ulu was asked why it took a week for a government team to be dispatched to the disaster site, he said it took some time to get a team representing the relevant agencies together.
“The team arrived today (yesterday) and so I am now waiting for their full report on this matter and I cannot comment any further on the matter.
However, I want to stress the importance for any company involved in developments such as homes, making of bricks, road projects they are required under the P.U.M.A. Act to retain a development consent.
“Under the law this is the responsibility of the company involved in development projects, they must apply for the development consent permit,” he said.
Ulu said due to the fact that the company did not have a permit, the M.N.R.E. will await the full report, and there is a possibility criminal charges will be filed against the responsible parties.
“Lives have been lost and so we will consider all the options we have under the law on this matter,” he added.
The C.E.O. also said that under the law P.U.M.A. should do an assessment of the development project site prior to the issuing of a permit.
“We consider the environment in any development consent permit and in this specific case, we assess whether this is safe for quarrying; among other things.
“We don’t just issue a development consent permit, a thorough assessment must be conducted, to avoid situations as the current one,” he said.
For a site that a developer proposes to quarry, Ulu said the P.U.M.A. assessment will give the permissible quantity of soil that can be extracted from the site.
He said the site in Savai’i was previously used by other companies.
“As soon as P.U.M.A. received the information, we issued a stop order and the companies applied for a development consent permit. So for the development consent the land owner has to sign off on it, but it is the responsibility of the business,” Ulu added.