The Fiji Sun
People of Rabi Island now have a chance to return to Ocean Island when rehabilitation works on their native island is completed. Development plans are already underway to restore the island which was vacated in the early 1900 due to the phosphate extraction by European companies on the island. The phosphate extraction ruined 90 per cent of the island forcing the native Barnabas to relocate to Kiribati and Rabi Island.
Australian-based economist Peter Crowly is now working closely with the Rabi Island Council and other parties concerned in trying to get back Ocean Island into its healthy state. Mr Crowly said the island was heavily polluted and that was what they would be working on first.
“We are still in the early stage and we have a lot to do beginning with the removal of the old buildings and tanks that are polluting the environment,” Mr Crowly said.
“We will work on getting the island back to its fertile state where the people are able to plant on it as well as trying to establish a source of water on the island.”
He said it would cost around $50 million to complete this project.
They are looking at the remaining phosphate on the island to finance part of this project.
Approval has already been sought by the Barnabas on Rabi Island and Kiribati.
Although the project will take another 20 years to complete, Rabi Island Council chairman Dr Paulo Vanualailai said they eagerly awaited the day when they would return to their native island.
“We will surely return when the island is restored. It is the issue of restoring our identity that we long for and that is the reason we support this project,” Dr Vanualailai said.
About 200 people chose to live on Ocean Island despite its ruined state.
The people get $140,000 annually in allowance from the Rabi and Kiribati council to help them survive on the island.
Their main source of food comes from the sea.