Fiji government denies landowners proper compensation for lost fisheries

Fiji government ignores its own Fisheries Department assessment and instead accepts a mining company’s much smaller estimate of damage!

Full compensation denied

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times

A Fisheries Impact Assessment report prepared by the Fisheries Department in 2007 valued the impact of bauxite mining on the qoliqoli of Nawailevu at $2.7million.

This was revealed at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources meeting held in Nawailevu last week where it was also heard that the company — Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd — carried out their own assessment and valued damage of the same qoliqoli at $270,000.

It was also heard at the meeting that Government opted for the company’s report pushing aside the $2.7m damage forecasted by the Fisheries department.

Lekutu District representative Tevita Raiova said qoliqoli owners in the district had been denied full compensation of their pristine fishing grounds.

He told the committee that the frustrating issue of this was that their fishing grounds were part of the Great Sea Reef, which was home to most marine organisms in the world.

Mr Raiova expressed how landowners have been talking about the way Government had chosen to deal with the compensation of these pristine marine ecosystems.

He said there was a dire need for Government to change and amend current Acts governing the use of iTaukei-owned natural resources.

Out of the $270,000, Mr Raiova said qoliqoli owners received 10 per cent of the $270,000 that was given to them as compensation for destruction sustained by their fishing grounds because of bauxite mining.

He said he was aware of TLTB’s (iTaukei Land Trust Board) recent distribution of $51m in lease money to landowners around the country.

But he said when considering that this money was shared between 14 provinces with a 1000 plus landowning units, the total money would be near nothing.

When chairman of the committee Joeli Cawaki enquired about the Fisheries report, he was told that the report was carried out in 2007.

North senior Fisheries officer Alifereti Tuinamata said they were given one month to prepare the FIA report.

Mr Tuinamata said the report was carried out by their team from Lami.

The company’s manager Sireli Dagaga confirmed that they had paid $270,000 for the surrendering of qoliqoli rights to the landowners while executive officer Derek Qiu said they could not release copies of the EIA report.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Fiji, Financial returns

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