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Airport runway extension to go ahead

The Samoa Airport Authority has gone ahead to clear land for the extension of the Faleolo International Airport’s runway, despite families still residing in the project site.

Families are living on Satapuala land which has been earmarked for the runway extension project. But Satapuala village mayor, Vaili Mimita, told Samoa Observer that they have been given another three weeks to relocate. 

“And the clearing of the land will not come to a halt, because these families continue to remain as trespassers on Government property,” he added.  

The families’ refusal to move off the land has put them at odds with the Samoa Trust Estate Corporation (S.T.E.C) and lead to a deadlock between the parties for over eight months. 

S.T.E.C Chief Executive Officer, Patea Loli M. Setefano, has not responded to emails sent by this newspaper seeking his comments on the matter. 

In June this year, attempts by four Satapuala families to get the Government to pay their relocation costs, were turned down. Tua’ato Tauvala'au Salausa, a member of one of the affected families, says they are not moving unless the Government paid them $1 million. But that demand was flatly refused by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who in turn threatened to take them to court to trespassing on State land. 

“It’s been 35 years since the Government and Satapuala Village Council signed an agreement for the exchange of land,” Tuilaepa said back then. 

Recently members of a family confronted contractors who were working on a fence, according Vaili, but the matter has been resolved. 

“But that’s been settled now and the families are aware they need to move from the location in three weeks, so the Airport can proceed with the fencing off of the property.

“There is no more dispute and the families understand they have land allocated for them,” he added.  

This newspaper visited the affected families at the contested land area but they refused to comment.

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