Asau, Savai’i is officially about to get a second chance to revitalize the district’s economy with works in development to improve its harbour.
Two weeks ago in Parliament, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi announced that the government has secured funding to widen and deepen the channel.
Currently the channel is ineffective and dangerous for marine vessels to come into, what is considered Samoa’s most protected harbour -making it an attractive feature to develop.
Asau’s Member of Parliament and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a, said that this is a very exciting development not only for Asau but for Savai’i because it will create opportunities to boost tourism and exporting for the big island.
“The Prime minister announced that funding through the Chinese government has been secured to deepen and widen the channel in the Asau Harbour,” he said.
“This is going to trigger the re-use of the port because once that is done no matter what we do on the wharf I tell you, this will help the economic growth in Savai’i.
“It will stop migration to Apia and there’s a lot of lands where companies can come and lease because they are all customary lands in Asau.”
“We’re talking about a base a little bit of a distance from Apia but Asau is more from an economic point of view, it is the most protected wharf/port in the whole of Samoa.”
According to Lopao’o, in Apia, when they are swelling, they send the boats out.
“And when the boats are coming in and it’s swelling, they go to Pago first. But here in Asau, it’s so protected and the boat can come in safely but the channel is the problematic area and now the PM has already secured funding to widen and deepen the channel.
“It will be safe for the yachts to come in, in the olden days 60’s 70s because of all the economic activities that were going on here because of Potlatch – we had lots of yachts come in , they bring in tourists.”
In the mid 1960s, the Samoan government funded a new harbour and wharf facilities at Asau to accommodate the operation of Potlatch, a large American wood products firm that moved toward full production in the early 1970s.
While it was Samoa’s largest employer during that time, the economic boom did not last long due a combination of governmental mismanagement of funds and the irrevocable damage being done to the areas primary rainforests by inadequate forest management.
However Lopao’o says that the district still has the advantage of having the foundations of a prosperous harbour and wharf still existing waiting to be developed.
“This is an exciting move and I’m really thankful to the Prime minister for doing this. I think back to when I was a young guy growing up in Asau when Potlatch was here - it was buzzing, business was booming and then when our native forests was gone, the company pulled out because they were only here for the hard timber. But now our people are more integrated and we are looking at what we can do with our hands, we can produce the goods that going to feed the supply chain here.”
“If we can bring in manufacturing companies to build here there will be a port here to deliver their products out to the overseas market. We won’t have to go to Apia and it will cut costs between Savaii and Upolu it’s all better for the whole island and therefore for the economy of the whole country.”
The project is expected to be completed over two years.