Maagao to Faatoia road work dispute continues
The Ma'agao to Faatoia road work remains on hold following a land dispute raised by affected residents, the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) Chief, Galumalemana Ta'atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger has confirmed.
The L.T.A. Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) said they are working through the issue and will carry on with the road work as soon as the dispute is resolved.
“The road construction for the Ma’agao to Fa’atoia road remains on hold and will proceed once matters pertaining to land will be resolved,” Galumalemana told this newspaper via email.
“We are grateful for the support by the general public as well as residents within the vicinity of this road project and L.T.A. with other relevant government agencies are working hard to complete this road as it will provide relief to traffic congestion around this area.”
The road development is an extension of the Loto Samasoni road following the commissioning of the Loto Samasoni Bailey Bridge funded by the Australian Government in 2019.
The road work is being carried out by Ulia Construction Ltd for a contract of just over $905,000.
The contract was awarded in September, according to the Ministry of Finance records.
But three months later, Ma’agao residents claimed to have a land compensation dispute and that the consultations led by proponents of the project was not sufficient.
Galumalemana said whilst many consultations were held prior to the commencement of construction works as per usual practice, it does not fully eliminate other issues that may arise during the construction phase and the Maagao to Fa’atoia road work is no different.
According to the L.T.A. Chief, 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.