NZ Scientist With Ties To Big Tech Plans To ‘Resculpt’ Fijian Reef To Make ‘Perfect Wave’ Axed - Stab Mag

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NZ Scientist With Ties To Big Tech Plans To ‘Resculpt’ Fijian Reef To Make ‘Perfect Wave’ Axed

“An experimental project that had ecological vandalism written all over it.”

news // Jun 1, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The World Wave Project (WWP), a New Zealand registered company that “designs improved seabed profiles to create new surf breaks while increasing marine habitat and coastal resilience,” had its reef excavation plans for the Qamea Islands scrapped after intense local opposition. 

The WWP proposal was being at least partially funded by the Founders Fund, the investment firm founded by PayPal’s Peter Thiel, known for its investment in start-ups like Facebook, Spotify, Airbnb and SpaceX. One of its main shareholders, Dr Shaw Mead wanted to dig up sections of coral reefs off the remote Qamea and Taveuni Islands in Fiji to create “a world class wave” out the front of a resort he owns. 

In its public consultation submission, The WPP boasted the planned waves would bring in 200 tourists a day spending $1000 daily across 300 days, “creating long term employment and opportunities” through surf tourism expenditure totalling tens of millions of dollars for Fiji.”

In a meeting earlier this week, traditional owners of the waters unanimously rejected the proposal. Head of the Yavusa Tribe in Qamea, Iosefo Tikoisolomone, said: “Where the development will take place it’s a small area and that’s where we fish from. The consultation is putting across an image that this project will go ahead. You are trying this development on our source of livelihood. Everyone sitting here doesn’t want this development.”

The WWP told Newsroom it was “somewhat surprised”, and as a result it would not be continuing with the project. “Mead and Lucas (CEO of WPP) looked stressed and realized their fantasy was over. Virtually all of the 80 odd people present were totally against the proposal. Logic and wisdom have prevailed, so this surely is the end of disregard for the Fijians, an experimental project that has ecological vandalism written all over it,” said Australian Brian Cregan, who has been going to these northern Fijian islands since the early 1980s.

Local pearl farmer Claude Prevost, who attended the meeting, said he had a huge smile on his face witnessing the local rejection of the plan. “We are extremely happy that WWP is pulling out of Fiji altogether. This project made no sense, no matter which way you look at it. From the environmental or social aspect, it was a disaster waiting to happen. Also, the untested experimental nature of the project was very scary.”

The WWP branded its proposed excavations as “resculpting” the reef, carrying out what it said would be minor modifications that would “improve the ecology” of the area and increase tourism. Logistically, it would require an excavator mounted on a barge to dig two channels through coral reef. The proposed areas combined were the equivalent to just under four standard rugby fields and take six months to complete.

Guess it’s back to the Surf Ranch then Silica boys?

Read the article in full here.

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