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Loud church still loud despite losing Samoa court case

APIA, Samoa — The manager of the Millenia Hotel, Tuala Oli Ah Him, is appealing the Supreme Court’s decision regarding his claim of losing customers due to loud noises coming from the Worship Center during their church services. The Worship Center is located next to his property.

The initial claim was filed back in 2009, naming the Worship Center and the Planning and Urban Management Agency (PUMA) in the suit, according to Samoa Observer.

PUMA regulates sustainable development and protection of natural resources through planning of development that would meet stakeholders’ needs.

The matter is now before Justice Pierre Slicer, Lei’ataua Tom Tinai and Ken Scannell for a tribunal hearing. Tuala’s appeal is based on “technical matters” in relation to a decision made against the Church in 2009. The court’s decision in question was made by the Supreme Court, following a complaint from Tuala against the church over “noise pollution.”

Tuala, in his claim, noted that the way the church conducts its services, has cost him a lot of business, given that many guests would leave due to the noise level. 

According to the Samoa Observer, the 2009 ruling ordered the church to hold off on Sunday services until parishioners are able to lower the noise below 55 decibels.

According to Tuala, this was not done. Before the matter reached the Court, Tuala claimed his hotel guests had to endure the noise for five years.

The businessman said they made several attempts to speak with the church to lower the noise but none of the attempts led to any changes.  So he took legal action against the church and won. At the time, church services were held in tents.

At the time of the 2009 decision by the court, the noise level was measured at 83 decibels, an equivalent of an alarm clock ringing about a meter from a human ear.  Maiava Visekota Peteru represented Hotel Millennia while Semi Leung Wai is the lawyer for the Worship Centre.  Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Sala Josephine Stowers Fiu, is counsel for PUMA.

Maiava noted in her opening arguments that there were “many issues” raised in the appeal, which included technical issues, which suggested that the church had not complied with requirements such as providing a site plan and other matters.

Mr Leung Wai on the other hand, has moved to dismiss the  appeal, noting that there is no evidence to prove their claim, which was rejected by the Tribunal.

Samoa Observer reported that the Worship Centre hosted a ground-breaking ceremony on the current site of the church at Sogi, next to the Millennia Hotel recently. However the construction of the church building has been put on hold until the Tribunal makes a decision.