Deadline for bids on historical land in Savai'i extended by six months
The family selling more than ten thousand acres of freehold land on Savaii known as the Letolo Plantation have extended the deadline to submit bids until the end of November.
Letolo Plantation stretches north from the coast of Vailoa until Palauli, and includes the historical Pulemelei starmound, tourist favourite Afu Auu waterfalls, and two rivers run through it.
Attempts to ascertain how many expressions of interest had already been submitted by the previous deadline of 1 June were unsuccessful.
In Savaii, the potential sale has been met with wide ranging disapproval.
The Vailoa Palauli leadership have even started an online petition against it.
Member of Parliament for Palauli Sasae, Tuifa’asisina Misa Lisati Aiolupotea wrote the petition, which is calling for the land to be returned to the village of Vailoa.
So far more than 1700 people have signed the petition, which is available online at ActionStation. The petitioners are targeting 2000 signatures in total.
Letolo Plantation is owned by the descendants of Taisi Olaf Frederick Nelson, who was a pivotal member of the Mau movement in pre-independence Samoa.
He took the fight for independence all the way to the League of Nations in Geneva, and helped negotiate a cooperation agreement between Samoa and its New Zealand administration in the 1930s, and served two terms on the Legislative Council.
Today Samoa is decorated in monuments in the Nelson family name, from the Clock Tower in Apia to the Nelson Memorial Library.
Taisi’s descendants include grandsons former Prime Minister and Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Misa Telefoni Retzlaff who was Deputy Prime Minister from 2000 until 2010.
Asked about the sale, Tui Atua said he has voiced his objection to the sale but would go by the majority of the shareholders wishes.
But if it was up to him, he would preserve the land and have archaeologists study it.
In total, the O.F. Nelson Properties Limited has 26 shareholders, who are spread out across the region. Shareholders are based in Samoa, American Samoa, Hawaii, America, and New Zealand.
Of the shareholders, all own one share parcel except for Tui Atua who holds two. After him, the other majority shareholders are T.C. Meyer, the A.H. Annandale Estate and H.T. Retzlaff.
Together they own 61,726 of the 150,000 shares.
The Letolo Plantation has previously been at the centre of protracted battles between the shareholders and Palauli village. The village council lost a case in 2008, but maintains the lands are part of the village heritage and identity.
In the 2008 case, the council claimed the site had never been lawfully alienated to become freehold land, making it still customary land and not the property of the Nelson family.