Ma’agao to Faatoia road works halted due to dispute
Work on the Ma’agao to Faatoia road has been temporarily halted until a land dispute raised the residents is resolved, says Land Transport Authority (LTA) chief, Galumalemana Ta'atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger.
Ma’agao residents have stopped roadworks between Masago and Fa'atoia due to a land compensation dispute and are saying that the consultations led by proponents of the project was not sufficient.
Galumalemana confirmed the dispute and the shut down of the roadworks, in response to questions sent by the Samoa Observer, saying there will not be any more work until the land issue is resolved.
“The construction works from Maagao to Faatoia has been put on hold while a land issue has been resolved,” she said. “Various consultations were held prior to the commencement of construction works, which is the usual practice.
“However, it does not fully eliminate other issues that may arise during the construction phase, which is not unique to the Maagao to Faatoia road construction contract but it is typical of most of our road projects.”
According to the L.T.A. Chief Executive Officer, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Attorney General’s Office normally take the lead in resolving land disputes.
However, in separate interviews with the Samoa Observer this month, the affected residents claim they were not compensated for the lands that they lost to the new road project.
Ma’agao resident Opetera Fa’amanu Vasa, who claims she had the most portion of land within the vicinity of the project, expressed concern that there was no consultation in relation to the roadworks.
“We’re not going to let this work continue until we’re compensated first as consulted in the beginning before this even started,” she said. “Apparently, we were surprised when the (bulldozers) suddenly came and started constructing without any more consultation because we only discussed it with the L.T.A way in the beginning but that was it.”
The alleged destruction of 10 breadfruit trees in her front yard also did not go down well with the disgruntled resident.
“Now that they’re taken down the breadfruit trees which almost everyone in this village relied mostly on, and not even compensating us first, what will we do about our livelihood?”
According to Mrs. Vasa, the residents of Ma’agao were told that their land will not be compensated as they do not have legitimate ownership. Instead, they were told the Government held the rights to the land.
Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get a comment from the L.T.A was unsuccessful.