DestinationsGovernment says sale of untouched coral atoll didn’t have proper approvals; auction cancelled.

Indonesian island auction dumped amid protests

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The Widi Islands lie in a protected marine reserve in eastern Indonesia.
The Widi Islands lie in a protected marine reserve in eastern Indonesia. Photo Credit: Sotheby’s.

If you had hopes of bidding for your own untouched Indonesian island at an auction in New York this month, you’re out of luck.

At least for the time being.

The Indonesian government has cancelled a company’s licence to develop a coral atoll archipelago, the Widi Islands, that was due to be auctioned by Sotheby’s.

The government blamed a “procedural error” for granting the licence to develop the islands as an eco-resort but has indicated it will revisit the licence application for other small islands in eastern Indonesia.

Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs, reportedly said this week, “The [agreement] should have been approved by the marine [affairs] and fisheries minister,” he said.

The Widi Islands lie in a protected marine reserve and news of the Sotheby’s auction brought protests from environmental groups.

A company called Leadership Islands Indonesia (LII) had in 2015 struck an agreement with the government in North Maluku province to manage and develop the state-owned islands and planned to turn them into “one of the world’s most sustainable luxury travel destinations”.

LII also had plans for an airstrip to connect the islands to Singapore, Bali and Cairns, among other places.

Mahfud, the Indonesian minister, has been quoted as saying the government will open investment opportunities “to use the outer islands”.

“If LIl is interested, it is welcome, as long as [everybody] follows the existing regulations,” he said.

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