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Fiji reef battle: judge finds China-linked developers guilty in landmark case

Jona Ratu and his daughter survey the channel dug into the reef on Malolo Island by the China-linked company Freesoul. Photograph: Rob Rickman/The Guardian

13th April, 2021

A years-long David and Goliath fight which has seen two Australian surfers take on a Chinese-linked company over their alleged damage of an idyllic Fijian island, has come to its conclusion after a Fijian court handed down a guilty verdict against the developers on Friday.

The case has been described by Pacific legal experts as a “watershed” moment that tested Fiji’s environmental laws, as well as the willingness of the country – which presents itself as a global climate leader – to “walk the walk” on environmental issues.

In 2018, Freesoul real estate, a Chinese-linked company, began work on Malolo Island, a 5km-long tourist island that lies about 20km west of the main island of Fiji, with plans to build Fiji’s largest holiday resort: roughly 350 bures and the nation’s first casino.

Shortly after work began, Freesoul was accused of causing massive environmental degradation, including claims Freesoul parked diggers on top of pristine reef, dug a channel 100 metres long and 20 metres wide through the reef to allow barges to bring supplies onto land, dumped the coral they dug up onto the pristine beachfront of their neighbours’ land, destroyed huge swathes of mangrove and piped sewage directly from their workers’ toilet block into the ocean.

Read more here.

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