PARADISE LOST: Angourie surfer's dream flattened
ANGOURIE friends Navrin Fox and Woody Jack had found a "pristine" paradise, in Fiji until the diggers rolled in.
"To rock up to what used to be unspoilt rainforest, to find 80 metres of reef dumped on what used to be a beach with about four or five excavators in front of your land, digging it up, running back and forth over the reef so they could make it into a road," Mr Fox said.
"They cut down maybe half the trees. It was devastating. It turned into a work zone."
It was the perfect escape for the pair of surfers and their mate Jona Ratu, which offered the chance to slow down with a view of world famous wave Cloudbreak. They met surfing the break and had just realised their dream of owning land on Malolo Island, Fiji.
But before work began on the three eco lodges for their families, the diggers rolled in.
Chinese developers Freesoul had moved in "overnight" to implement a planned 600 room resort with Fiji's first casino.
The company leased land adjacent to the surfers', but it didn't take long before they ripped a deep channel through the coral reef to provide Freesoul with access to the mates' idyllic beach.
"The speed in which they moved in was frightening. It was well orchestrated," Mr Fox said.
"They were on our ocean boundary, they said 'we are allowed to do this, we have permission, get out of our way'."
The mangroves that were once ripe with crabs the local community took to market became a health hazard. "All the workers were sh-tting straight into the ocean, when there are 30 guys doing that a day plus the 20 Fijian workers as well," he said.
"The amount of sewage that was going out there- it's a health risk."
Mr Fox said he and his partners were "underestimated" and soon began to wage a legal battle between right and wrong.
"If this development goes through it will wreck the place. Malolo already has dozen resorts on it," he said.
"If you put Fiji's biggest one smack bang in the middle of it, with no sewage plan, no treatment systems, there is nothing out there to say how they will manage the waste."
Months later and tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket, the fight continues. It is understood Freesoul is currently set to face court on environmental charges.
While paradise is on hold for Mr Fox and his mates, they will continue to fight for what is right, whether that be on Malolo Island, at the Adani mine site or the Great Australian Bight.
Mr Fox said standing against developments that have the potential to cause serious environmental harm is critical, to ensure a world just as good as the one we have now is left for our kids.
After overwhelming support from strangers and friends, Mr Fox and Mr Jack have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help them cover legal costs which has already raised close to $7000.
Mr Fox said as Chinese developers move in across Australia and the Pacific doing business by "pushing people out of the way" is not unusual.
"They could have gone about this in the right way and made a resort that could have been a lot smaller and talked to us about sharing the access," he said.