Vaka Turaga I Nacobua vua na gone turaga na Roko Tui Namata;
The Honourable Acting Minister and Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport;
Management and Staff of Fiji Roads Authority;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I’m delighted to be here today in Raralevu to kick-off my first engagement of the new year, the official opening of the new Bau Tikina by-pass road.
As you are all aware, the end of this past year was fraught with difficulty for many Fijians as we experienced widespread flooding due to Tropical Depression 04F. The heavy rains and flooding caused serious damage at the Kasavu Slip, and the Kings Road will have to undergo repairs that may take some time.
In order to keep these communities accessible, work began in the immediate aftermath of the Tropical Depression to open this alternative bypass route. And I am very pleased that this seven kilometre route is now open, with the capability to hold traffic of up to 18 tonnes.
I would like to thank our contractors and subcontractors who have been working diligently since 21 December – through Christmas and the New Year – doing this good work for the people of Rarelevu. Vinaka vakalevu.
Following the damage sustained to the Kings Road, we also saw the Fiji Bus Operators Association step up in a major way to offer bus services on both sides of the Kasavu Slip. Your support and your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and you also deserve our thanks. A big vinaka vakalevu to you as well.
The damage caused to our infrastructure due to severe weather events has been a continuing challenge for Fiji, as it has been for many other vulnerable, low-lying areas in the world. And due to the selfish behaviour of industrialised nations, experts tell us these weather events will only become more frequent and more severe.
As I’ve said many times before, we cannot allow climate change – and its disastrous effects – to threaten the hard-won progress my Government has achieved for the Fijian people. The development projects that have spread access to water, electricity and telecommunications at unprecedented levels. And the infrastructure that has connected the Fijian people like never before.
So on the diplomatic front, my Government is fighting hard as a global champion against climate change. And we plan to use our upcoming presidency at COP-23 – the United Nations climate negotiations to reduce carbon emissions and arrest the global warming – to demand stronger action from the international community.
Not only to limit carbon emissions, but to assist vulnerable countries to protect ourselves from the effects of climate change we are already experiencing. So that we can boost our climate resilience across a broad front, and keep our development as sustainable as possible.
And we will be working even harder here at home to set out the vision of the new Fiji. To keep our ears to the ground, to listen to the stories and experiences of communities just like Raralevu and to work together to find ways to take Fiji to even greater levels of success and prosperity. Because we cannot allow the threat of climate change to limit our ambition or our potential as a people.
I would like to also thank the villages of Raralevu for accommodating and supporting the construction of this by-pass, and ask that everyone who makes use of this new access road to adhere to the speed limit and 18 tonne weight restriction at all times.
With those few words, I am pleased to declare the Bau Tikina Bypass Road open.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.