With a history spanning murder, mafia and malediction, Rarotonga’s Sheraton Resort has stood magnificent and unfinished for almost 30 years.
Originally funded in 1987 with a NZ$52m investment from an Italian company, the 200 suite resort promised to greatly increase tourism on the small South Pacific Island. Construction started in 1990, but within just a few years the bulk of the money had gone, amid allegations of Mafia involvement. A number of investors have since tried and failed to get the project back off the ground.
Yet the story of the Vaimaanga site dates back further. In 1911, More Uriatua was shot dead on the site by William John Wigmore during a dispute over land ownership. At the project’s official launch, More’s grandson, More Rua turned up dressed as a high priest in warlike regalia, intoning the resurrection of his grandmother’s curse. He slammed his spear into a rock onto which a plaque (marking the beginning of the Sheraton project) had been unveiled by the Prime Minister. When the rock split to ground level, the locals saw it as a sign that the resort was still cursed, and doomed to fail.
The Sheraton has never welcomed a paying guest, with it’s primary visitors being local cattle and goats.