Give Ti’avea village a fair go

Dear Editor

I read with interest the story titled “Govt. refuses to pay $5.58 million for Ti’avea land.”

My interest antenna went up when I saw the Minister’s comments regarding the asking price for Tiavea’s land, which is being used for the airport.

My one unit of economics at a local teaching institution taught me that assets have value. Presumably the Tiavea land on which the airport is being built is an asset, that belongs to nine families. 

By my rough calculation 23 acres converts to just over 93 thousand square metres and at $30 per square metre, that comes to about $2.8 million. Doubling the square metre price results in a 100% increase in moneys for the affected Tiavea families.

The Minister’s comments appear to demand that Tiavea accepts the $30 price as being a reasonable offer. This implies that there is a market price for land at Tiavea and surrounding areas and the price of $30 per square is all that the market (in this case the Government) is prepared to pay. 

The important question here is, who did the land valuation, which yielded the $30 figure. I sincerely hope this valuation did not employ the questionable methodology used in valuing the lands of Salelologa, which got sold, to the government for a fraction of what they were really worth.

If there is no agreed valuation then Tiavea’s case is worth looking at because $60 per square metre is just as valid as $30 or $100 or whatever. The value of an asset is not dependent on the ability of the buyer to pay. 

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After all, the Tiavea families are going to lose their assets forever and they need to be adequately and appropriately compensated. It is unbecoming of the Minister to issue threats about forcible takeover of land because issuing threats won’t lead to any meaningful results. 

Dare I contemplate the use of the police with their guns to enforce such forceful takeover of Tiavea land.

The second interesting aspect of the Minister’s comments relate to the benefits that would accrue to Tiavea and the surrounding areas from the airport. 

These economic benefits have not been articulated by the Minister but if the value of these benefits is high, then surely, the price of the assets from which these benefits will come, should also be high. 

How high should be a matter of negotiation in good faith between the government and the Tiavea council acting on behalf of the affected families. 

By the way, apart from Tiavea and the surrounding areas, the government will also benefit from the airport primarily through landing fees and higher taxation revenue from hotel owners and others, from higher tourist dollars.

In the final analysis, the government will recoup its investment in the airport and still have an asset, the airport land. 

For the affected Tiavea families, the price they receive should be enough to compensate them for the complete loss of an increasingly valuable asset, land.

 

Vai Autu

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