Pacific News Briefs

compiled by Samoa News staff

THEFT FROM SAMOA CHURCH IN AUCKLAND FUNDED GAMBLING HABIT

An employee of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church in Auckland, who had been convicted of theft, has been jailed for two years and nine months.

Fifty-two-year-old Elizabeth Papu had admitted to two charges of 'theft by person in special relationship' relating to approximately $NZ1.6 million dollars of offending while she was finance administrator of the church's northern division.

Today at the Manukau District Court, Papu's name suppression was lifted.

Papu had admitted she took the money and the Serious Fraud Office, which prosecuted the case, says she stole to fund her gambling habit.

The SFO director, Julie Read, said Papu had full responsibility for the church's bank accounts.

She said the authority to record transactions and reconcile bank statements allowed her to manipulate the church's financial records and disguise her theft.

(Source: RNZI)

CEO CLARIFIES DELAYS IN ISSUANCE OF ENTRY PERMITS

The delay in granting entry permits for Samoan nationals to travel to American Samoa has led to complaints registered with the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It’s an inconvenience that government has been trying for years to resolve with the Territorial government as the bottleneck originates from American Samoa and its permit approving procedures.

For instance, American Samoans wanting an entry permit to enter Samoa can apply in person to Samoa’s Consulate Office in Fagatogo and receive their permits the same day.

But for local residents, they are required to email a passport copy, a return ticket and contacts of their sponsors in the territory to the American Samoa Immigration Office.

And from there, they wait.

“Government has exhausted avenues to streamline the processing of entry permit requests from our side,” explains MPMC’s Chief Executive Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo.

“But while we have streamlined our permit processes, we still have to comply with American Samoa’s procedures.”

As the leading government agency organizing the 2Samoa talks to take place in Apia next month, Agafili says the entry permit issue will be one of the items on the agenda.

It was hoped that American Samoa by now would have also opened its own Consulate Office in Apia.

The 2Samoas have already agreed to set up their respective offices in Apia and Fagatogo however American Samoa has not done so.

In other related news, Samoa Is raising the permit fees for US Nationals from American Samoa entering Samoa:

From Oct. 9th, the fee for a permit for up to 14 days will double to $US20.

For urgent issuance the fee will be $US30.

A multiple entry for 12 months will cost $US150.

For people who overstay their permits, a new fee of $200 tala, or $US80, has been added.

Samoa's consul general in American Samoa Auseugaefa Vaasatia Poloma Komiti says the fees have not been changed for years and the increase reflected higher costs of providing these services.

He said inter Samoa talks have discussed many arrangements to relax inter-island travel between the two countries for several years, but nothing has materialized.

[Source: M.P.M.C. Press Secretary]

NAURU & VISA FEE FOR JOURNALISTS

Nauru President Baron Waqa has indicated that an $8,000 visa fee for journalists will be waived when his country hosts the Pacific Islands Forum next year.

He was responding to questions raised by the regional media at the conclusion of the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting in Apia earlier this month.

Currently, journalists have to pay a non-refundable $8,000 application fee for a visa to enter Nauru.

And President Wada has reassured the regional media and Forum Chairman Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi that Nauru will see to it that that the media will be welcomed.

He says that because the visa fee is already a law and included in his country’s budget appropriation approved by parliament, the fee will also need legislative amendment to be removed.

“But let me assure you that we are working with [the Pacific Islands Forum] to make sure that you all get there,” he reiterated.

Only two Australian journalists have been allowed into Nauru in recent years.

The application fee has been criticized as an effort to prevent journalists reporting on the Australian Government's policy of offshore detention for asylum seekers and refugees.

[Source: M.P.M.C. Press Secretary]

SAMOA AIRWAYS SET NOV 14 FOR INAUGURAL FLIGHTS

Samoa Airways will make her international debut to Auckland from Faleolo on Nov. 14, the Minister responsible for Polynesian Airlines Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell has confirmed.

The 737-800 leased from Iceland Air is scheduled to arrive on Sunday, Nov. 12, with the following day set aside for the christening formalities, before Samoa Airways makes her inaugural flight on Tuesday, November 14.

The aircraft has a seating capacity for 172, including 8 in the business class.

It will also have its logo painted on it when the aircraft arrives, says Lautafi.

“As advertised, Samoa Airways will have 6 flights a week between Auckland and Faleolo and twice a week between Faleolo and Sydney,” elaborated the Minister.

“We will launch our new national carrier brand with our range of meaalofa fares already on the market (with meals included) for these destinations before we advertise the regular fairs which I can safely say are more affordable compared to the fares now.”

 “And down the line we hope to lease or acquire a 777-Mac aircraft by 2019 to expand Samoa Airways services to other destinations such as Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia.”

Lautafi says that the initial lease agreement with Iceland Air is a wet lease that includes pilots and stewards for the aircraft.

But the tentative plan is for a wet lease in the long run, which will see Samoa Airways outfitting the airlines with their own pilots and supporting staff.

“So far everything is falling in place as we look forward to the return of our new branded national carrier to international services as planned,” the Minister concluded.

[Source: M.P.M.C. Press Secretary]

AUCKLAND'S FUEL CRISIS — WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A week after a pipeline failure caused a major shortage in Auckland, the first tanker of aviation fuel is due to leave Marsden Point — and a navy ship is heading to the refinery to load up with diesel.

The pipeline from Marsden Point to Wiri, near Auckland Airport, was shut down on the weekend after 80,000 litres of jet fuel — or about two tanker loads — spilled from a damaged section at Ruakaka. The leak that caused the closure happened last Thursday.

Here's what you need to know:

Air Travellers

Air New Zealand planes now have to head to Wellington to refuel. It has resumed sales of tickets for most long-haul flights, other than some trans-Tasman and Pacific Island services.

By yesterday, 110 flights had been cancelled — 41 of them Air New Zealand services.

Airlines are on 30 percent of the normal fuel take from the pipeline until Sept. 28.

A tanker was due to leave the Marsden Point oil refinery this afternoon with a cargo of jet fuel for Auckland Airport. It is the first in what will be a fleet of six to eight trucks delivering aviation fuel.

Chemical tanks at Auckland's Wynyard Wharf might be converted to temporary aviation fuel storage, but a decision hasn't yet been announced.

The government has convened a joint industry-government group to oversee the full re-installment of jet fuel supplies into the airport.

Another 3000 travellers heading out of Auckland will have their flights cancelled tomorrow and ticket sales will be restricted, as airlines deal with an ongoing fuel shortage.

Immigration NZ is providing advice to clients whose New Zealand visas are at risk of expiring due to cancellations or postponements. Anyone whose visa is due to expire will be given an electronic visa free of charge.

Motorists

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said yesterday he had been assured Auckland City will not run out of petrol and diesel for vehicles. By yesterday, 48 trucks a day were bringing fuel from Marsden Point and Mt Maunganui into Auckland — some using Defense Force drivers.

Navy ship HMNZS Endeavour is sailing to Marsden Point today to pick up almost five million liters of diesel.

Only seven Z Energy petrol stations in Auckland were not selling 95-octane by yesterday evening.

Traffic lights were being synched to get tankers carrying fuel around the city more quickly and there will be extended hours to offload supplies at service stations.

Mobil Oil New Zealand manager Andrew McNaught, speaking on behalf of the fuel industry, said yesterday that widespread petrol and diesel shortages were unlikely.

Environment

Refining NZ said ground water being pumped from around the break appeared to be clear of hydrocarbons yesterday.

Domestic bores in the Ruakaka neighbourhood were also being tested. There has been no sign of contamination.

Pipeline repairs

The pipe will be fixed between Sunday 24 September and Tuesday 26 September, according to Refining NZ's latest estimate.

The company said its engineers had made the first of four major welds, and the first plug was due to be put in yesterday evening. The pipe has to be plugged on either side of the break and any gases removed before a new section goes in.

In the meantime, Auckland Airport said other airports in the Pacific were also being affected by the fuel shortage, with airlines having to look at different options to refuel.

Chief executive Adrian Littlewood told Checkpoint airlines had been stopping at airports like Nadi and Brisbane to pick up additional fuel.

"Obviously they already have their own airlines to support there, so I know all the airlines and fuel companies are looking at those different options and trying to find different methods. All of those options are being accounted for, including additional fuelling at Christchurch," he said.

Littlewood said the impacts of the shortage would likely increase before the pipe was fixed early next week.

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