News story on a resort development in South Bali, Indonesia
Orginally published in The Bali Times, 02/08/07
PECATU, Bali ~ A long-dormant resort area on the Bukit Badung in southernmost Bali is getting a multimillion-dollar rebirth as massive developments come onstream, creating thousands of jobs and a boom for the island’s tourism, officials said this week.However, local businesspeople at Dreamland Beach, the area’s most famous tourist attraction, fear they may lose their livelihoods as an upmarket resort takes shape, they said.
The 400-hectare Pecatu Indah Resort site is the property of PT. Bali Pecatu Graha, a company owned by Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy Suharto, son of the former president.
The company acquired the land in 1995, and work on the project began in 1996 but came to a complete halt following the Asian financial crisis the following year.
“At that time all the roads were laid, the golf course was ready with five holes, all the irrigation was ready, but after 1998, work stopped completely and it was all lost,” Arturo Seril, the project manager for the development, told The Bali Times on Wednesday.
Pecatu Indah remained dormant until 2004, he said.
“There was good investment potential, so we started work again,” said Seril, adding that the project now employed around 200 staff.
“Most of them are from the original workforce. We took the loyal ones on again when we restarted, and we paid their salaries for the whole time they had been laid off,” he said.
The developer has sold nine plots to investors including New Kuta Golf, whose course recently opened with nine of an eventual 18 holes. On completion time, Pecatu Indah Resort will include at least five luxury hotels – the Westin has bought land and is to build; leading local tea company Sosro has also invested and plans to branch out into the hotel sector with its first property in Pecatu - around 2,000 houses, an international school and hospital and shopping and entertainment attractions including a “Waterbom” park of the type in Tuban, said Seril. An estimate of the total value of the development was expected in the company’s financial report at the end of this year, he said, but previously reported figures have put the investment at some US$330 million.
Another developer, PT. Panorama Development Utama (PMA), has already started work on a 21-villa complex called Hole 17, set in the midst of the golf course and whose prices average around $1 million, PMA chief financial officer T. Sivanathan told The Times.
“We plan to be completed and sold by the end of 2008. It’s all going to happen [quite quickly] - if you came back in five years, you wouldn’t recognize the place,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is a shortage of fresh water in the arid Bukit area, and although at present the development is supplied with mains water, Seril said it would eventually be self-sufficient, using desalinated seawater.
“Water is a problem here; that’s why we are building desalination plants,” he said. The first plant would be operational in September, providing 3,000 cubic meters of fresh water a day, said Seril, adding that more desalination plants would be needed as on completion, the resort would use around 12 000 cubic meters of water daily.The popular Dreamland surfing beach lies within the Pecatu Indah Resort, and Seril confirmed rumors that the locally run cafes and guesthouses on the beach would be removed in coming months. The beach would remain open to the public, however.
“These illegal warungs (local cafes) were constructed during the financial crisis when there was no work going on with the project,” said Seril.
“But we’re not just driving them away. We are putting up more beautiful warungs for them close to the beach,” he said.
Seril said the closure and relocation of the warungs would be organized by the local banjar (community).
“We are working with the Pecatu village officials, and the new warungs will be donated to them,” he said.
The beach itself will eventually be entirely free of any developments, according to Seril, and an international restaurant and spa named Kelapa will be built on the cliff-top, with construction planned to start in the next few months.
“As soon as we drive out the warungs, construction on the restaurant will start,” he said.
Seril said the beach would be referred to as “New Kuta Beach.”
“Its Balinese name is Cimongka. Dreamland was the name given to it by Australians,” he said, adding that Bali Pecatu Graha had named it New Kuta Beach since the original launch of the project.
The development has caused alarm among some of the Pecatu villagers who work at the beach. Once a nudists’ and surfers’ secret, Dreamland has become one of the most popular beaches in Bali in recent years, and a thriving, informal service industry has grown up on the cliff-side.
According to locals, there are 38 locally owned businesses at the beach, each employing between three and five people. The first were established in the 1980s, said one warung owner who gave his name as Rocky, adding that the original buildings were removed by Bali Pecatu Graha when the company bought the land in 1995.
Most of the people who had worked at the beach took jobs with the company, he said, but were laid off when construction stopped in 1998.
“So we came back to the beach and built the warungs again.”
Each of the warung owners will be allocated a position in a strip of small concrete shops being built on a raised platform along a dry riverbed that leads to the beach, and will be provided with legal papers for the property, locals said.
“We know there’s nothing we can do. We don’t have any legal rights to the land here, so it’s a good thing that they’re going to give us the documents for then new warungs,” said another warung owner who also spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity.
“But I don’t think those new places are going to be good for business. It’ll be different from now - there’s no view and I’m worried that tourists will stop coming here,” he said, adding that he had received no confirmation of when the existing businesses would have to close.
Some foreign tourists at the beach expressed concern at the plans to relocate the warungs.
“It’s a bad move, I reckon,” said a tourist from Byron Bay, Australia, who gave his name as Col.
“This place is magic as it is. The idea’s ridiculous. It will take away the simplicity of it. I won’t come back,” he said.
But Jack, a surfer from Perth had a different perspective.
“I’ve been coming here for about five years, and it’s changed so much. There’s too many cafes on the cliff now, and too many people. I reckon the place is already spoilt, so maybe just getting rid of them all is for the best,” he said.
© Tim Hannigan 2007