In Nawailevu, as in other parts of Fiji, everybody wins except the poor land owners

Below we publish the reflections of Fiji Opposition Parliamentarian and Lawyer Mr Niko Nawaikula following a tour to mine affected communities. He found that multi million dollar mining and forestry projects are not really improving the livelihood of the Resource Owners of the Nawailevu. The people are still poor, although Bauxite Mining by Chinese company Xinfa Aurium continues. But if there is something that this project can be guaranteed to bring it is a degraded environment…

Niko Nawaikula Photos 2

Niko Nawaikula

A multi million dollar stockpile of bauxite exported and the land, on this side of Bua, stocked with miles and miles of ready to harvest pine but NawaNiko village struggles with basic living.

The equation simply does not add up. Something must be wrong somewhere. Someone has taken and used up all that money but it’s certainly not the landowner. 

The village looks the same as before the government and Xinfa entered to mine the bauxite.

According to the villagers the biggest amount they saw is the one written on a big cheque that now hangs prominently in the Turaga ni Yavusas home. 

The sum written is $ 577,000.00.

Niko Nawaikula Photos cheque

“It is big alright but did you actually receive that money in your hands”, I asked. They said no. They said the money is sent to their trustees who are some people they do not know. Some money has been brought and distributed, not much they said.

Niko Nawaikula Photos plantation 6

By any standard, if the bauxite extracted from their land is worth millions and if the million dollar operation of pine chips at Wairiki include pine from their land, then surely they must be well off?  We assessed their wealth by looking at the way they live and living standard. There is absolutely nothing there. 

The old wood and tin houses that were there before the project are still here.

With all those millions one would expect Nawailevu village to be looking like a five star resort with nicely planned and designer houses on landscaped settings. But no. The standard of living has not increased one bit. 

Today in his tin and iron house, the Turaga NI Yavusa, elderly and half deaf, sits patiently with his family over a simple meal of fish and Tavioka.

Come and eat he called out to us and we replied, ” thank you we have had lunch.” 

Then looking around and seeing no sign of change , I jokingly asked him, ” so where’s all the money gone?”. He looked down with eyes closed with both hands up shaking his head and both hands signalling, I don’t know.

In true iTaukei style , as we were about to leave, he looked around him for the best gift he has to offer us. And opening a chest he pulled out 4 nicely riped mangoes that we accepted with much thanks.

The fate of the villages of Nawailevu is no different from those at Nawaca, Nagadoa or any native fijian village . Everybody else wins and makes their money except the poor land and resource owner.

We need to rethink the way we do things. I tend to agree with a thought by J Baba that we need to empower them to take control of their own land and resource… Otherwise the new highway will be a means to take them quickly out of the villages to elsewhere where they can find meaning.

Niko Nawaikula Photos 3

7 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Fiji, Financial returns, Human rights

7 responses to “In Nawailevu, as in other parts of Fiji, everybody wins except the poor land owners

  1. Samuela

    Landowners and especially their trustees for misuse of money if Mataqali Nalutu can invest their share wisely why can’t other’s
    The Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Resourses has concluded their work and Niko should have taken cue from there

  2. Michelle

    That is because Fiji, like everywhere, is awash with conmen and liars.

  3. Pingback: Fiji Department wants government to withdraw tax concessions for mining companies. | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

  4. Karis

    It is easy to bribe a few local leaders.Why doesn’t the lawyer work pro bono or for reduced fees for the courts to force the government or whoever it is to disclose the so called trustees and take the sum back with interest? Failing that what about a class action or/and appealing to an internation court? The lawyer surely can help these villagers.

  5. Raphael Maminaka

    By

  6. BBua

    Bula vinaka Niko Opposition will always try to degrade Government of the Day

  7. Jo.Tuinaosara

    Before we start politicizing issues here, we should not miss the main point… and that is, to give the landowners a fair return for their resources. What has happened in Nawailevu is a lesson to be learnt by other Kaibuas who wish to follow suit into the mining, timber and other industries. We can not stop the powers that be from exploiting or manipulating the ignorance of our people and ripping them off a fair value for their resources. If we take it to any court of the land or to what other means available, we may or may not succeed and if we do, would there be still any more natural resources available to mine or harvest for our people by the time we’re able to legally redeem this situation? The only way forward is empowering these landowners to manage the commercialization of their natural resources and in order to do this; the intellectual sons & daughters of Bua who are now professionals in fields of expertise that can assist in this area of need, must make some unavoidable sacrifices to make it work… I may not have the right to ask anyone to do this, but I do know for a fact that this is the only way forward. Otherwise, then we should forget about getting a fair return from our marine resources, pine, mahogany, native timber and minerals. We will remain spectators while outsiders continue to enjoy the bulk of profits earned from our resources… Sa re!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s