CEO Suva City/Lami Town Councils,
CEO for Nasinu/Nausori Town Council,
Officials from key Ministries and Government Agencies,
Invited Guests,

Bula Vinaka,
I welcome all the stakeholders and members of the public as we mark a very important day for town and city planners.
Today, we celebrate the 73rd World Town Planning Day. And as with any other international observation, we dedicate this day to recognise this important role in our society and those who contribute to it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Well planned towns and cities must provide integrated and inclusive solutions. They should provide quality and modern living to its citizens. Thus, living standards and livelihoods of citizens are central considerations in the planning process. 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Rather than just dedicating a day, planning is an everyday calculus to respond to evolving and growing challenges of society.
To achieve the best for the people, we need policies and plans that are robust and adaptable to the changing times and receptive to new concepts and ideas of quality living. Policies must provide an enabling environment for urban centres to respond to shocks.
Planning must be for the long-term. Today, we need a plan that considers our future needs – not just 5, or just 10 years down the track – but 50 years ahead.
So, as planners we need to think outside the box. Most importantly, planning cannot be done in isolation. As part of a Small Island Developing States, with limited resources, planning needs to be continuous effort by stakeholders. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Planning cannot be solely achieved by the Department of Town and Country Planning. We need Municipal Councils, Agencies such as Lands and Housing, TLTB, WAF, FRA, EFL, private sector and the public to collectively take steps towards modern planning.
As this year’s theme, “Think Global, Plan Local”, planners and policy makers need to have a wider vision.  Fiji is not “an island alone”. It is part of a global landscape. So we need to take inspiration globally and make it our own.
We must leverage ground-breaking technologies, to make our cities modern and green. We need to aspire to the most sustainable cities in the world like Tokyo, Copenhagen and Berlin. 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In partnership with the Singapore Government, we entered into a long term planning framework. This consists of a 50 year Master plan - for major cities and towns in Viti Levu. This Master Plan will provide a broad template for Fijian towns and cities to develop individual town schemes.
The Master Plan process is making us and agencies think of the future of economic sectors and what is required to build smart, sustainable and resilient cities and towns. 
Our belief is that the Master Planning approach must be one that is forward looking and more proactive rather than reactive.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Planning also means looking within and identifying areas of improvements. As I said earlier, plans, policies and agencies must be adaptable. They must also welcome and encourage reforms of processes and procedures.
This also means modernisation and simplification of systems. Digitalisation of applications and approvals is critical. Our systems and processes should encourage micro, small and medium enterprises to establish and flourish.
In this regard, the Ministry has set a plan for a 24 month digitalisation project. The two key areas, we are embarking on starting a business and obtaining construction permits.  These two areas are critical to our economy, and linked to better planning.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As part of the reforms, we have launched the trial phase of online application for starting a business. And in 2023, starting a business application and approvals will be fully-automated. As for construction permits, we are currently undertaking requirements gathering. Which means reviewing and revising procedures and policies to make processes simple for applicants.
The Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) has been actively contributing to Fiji’s economic recovery in the building sector. They have processed major building applications worth more than $70 million.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are committed to ensuring that the amended laws take into account streamlining online approval processes, emphasis on formulating inclusive and sustainable strategic long-term plans and making Fiji’s planning system more user friendly.  At the same time, they should strengthen development control to deter illegal developments.
There is a lot of work ahead in terms of reforming and strengthening the DTCP with the ultimate aim to facilitate development that aids in the economic recovery. At the same time, we will look at strategically planning for the future of our towns, cities and rural growth areas.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in acknowledging the Urban Agenda and the need to plan for sustainable and modern urban cities and towns, the Fijian Government is also investing in satellite growth centres that includes Nabouwalu, Seqaqa, Korovou and Keiyasi.
We are doing this to create equal opportunities across rural areas, reduce rural to urban drift and ensure our services are accessible to all Fijians.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we now live in a world of 7.9 billion people. And by 2050, nearly 7 out of 10 people will live in cities and urban areas. To sustainably accommodate this, now more than ever, our strategies and plans need to look years ahead.
And it’s by looking and planning ahead can we realise our national goal of ‘building vibrant and sustainable cities and towns and a stronger rural economy’ (NDP).
The vision for a modern Fiji is for our planners and public agencies, and industry experts to get together and ‘Think Global, Plan Local’ for more vibrant and sustainable Fijian towns and cities.
With these few words, I wish everyone a Happy World Town Planning Day 2022!
Vinaka Vakalevu.