Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be here in Naulu for such an important day for your communities. Today, I am here to distribute approval notices of lease for 21 families – granting them 99-year leases on land they have long called home.
Today, we are restoring dignity and establishing – for the first time – a sense of ownership in these settlements.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you may know, the international community is preparing to take strong action to tackle an issue of enormous importance to Fiji and the Fijian people, the rising seas and severe weather events caused by climate change. And, as you may also know, Fiji has been chosen to lead those efforts at the UN Conference on Climate Change, of COP 23, in November. It is a big honour and responsibility, and we are working very hard to make sure our presidency is successful. And I hope you’ve all had the chance to see the logo we unveiled this week, which symbolises the threat we face and the urgent need for action from the global community.
But while we carry out that work, I have insisted, at every turn, that we do not allow the other critical work of my Government to be delayed. Climate change may represent the greatest threat to Fiji in our history, but we cannot allow that reality to limit our ambition for what is possible. Work vital to our success as a nation, such as the handover of these approval notices, must continue.
And it will continue, because my Government is committed to doing everything possible to empower our people and bring them greater opportunity. The people of Naulu and Kinoya, and Fijians all throughout our islands, are the greatest resource we have in Fiji. And every Fijian deserves the assurances and benefits of security of tenure, as it is due to their hard work that our economy is the most prosperous it has ever been and we enjoy such a strong position in the world today. Because while a Government can set out the vision for progress, while we can create an environment of opportunity, it is the Fijian people whose hard-work, sweat and determination assure our nation’s success.
For some of you, it’s been nearly 40 years that you have lived here without any certainty of your status. For too long, you’ve been made to feel like outsiders in your own community. And for too long, you have struggled to secure permanent residence, but that all ends today.
These approval notices will grant your families long-term leases that give you the opportunity to make secure investments on your land and in your communities.
I hope your imaginations are all running wild with the possibilities that have been opened to you. Land ownership is one of the most effective ways to build wealth and improve quality of life – and with this handover – that opportunity is now yours to seize.
You can now develop your communities with the confidence that – whatever you build – no one can take it away from you. You can build concrete homes and plan other community developments that will last to serve you, your children and your children’s children. Because all of your hard-work can now be passed on to those who come after you. You can use your land as collateral to access finance, create value and build wealth that spans generations. And seek the insurance services you need to protect those investments. Because you finally have a solid foundation to stand on in our financial markets – and that is an opportunity you cannot allow to go to waste.
I understand that the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, has already spoken to the Banks and insurance companies about providing their services at competitive pricing to new leaseholders such as you, and urged them to be more pro-active in offering loans and affordable insurance coverage to yourselves, and communities all over Fiji. I echo that call. My Government is working hard to expand access to finance and build a more inclusive financial system in Fiji. But that requires the private sector to get on board. Building an inclusive financial environment is a team effort, and we need every team member committed to giving every Fijian access to affordable financial services and products. That includes our Banks and that includes our insurance companies – both of whom need to collectively raise the bar in the services they provide the Fijian people.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no price tag that can be placed on the feeling of self-determination you’ve been given today, and it brings me a lot of joy to see that brought to your communities.
You are all valued, you are all precious to our nation and you all deserve your fair shot at a better life. My Government will be there to support you and help you realise the full potential of the Naulu and Kinoya settlements. And all over Fiji, we will continue to deliver on our promise to regularise all squatters on State land – to give every family that we can the security and stability you are receiving today.
You can all be proud, because from this day onwards you are now the sole masters of your land and of your future. Be ambitious, be bold, and build your communities into something that will stand for generations to come. I believe in your ability to do great things, and I look forward to all you will accomplish.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.