• Staff of the Ministry of Forestry
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to officially launch the Ministry of Forestry’s Costed Annual Operation Plan for the fiscal Year 2019-2020.
This Plan is firstly aligned to Fiji’s 5-Year and 20-Year National Development Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
It continues the focus on sustainable forest management which is captured in the Ministry’s Strategic Development Plan 2017-2030. 
The Ministry of Forestry has been mandated to lead the management of the forest sector in a sustainable way: to grow more trees and our forest cover, to grow the economy, and to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth from our forest resources.
The global environment is evolving. And, the Forestry sector has become increasingly critical especially in the face of ongoing threats of climate change and its residual effects on our environment, our economy, and our people.
The Ministry has made some bold decisions and taken radical steps in realigning itself to help Fiji cope with an evolving world. 
The delay in finalizing the Costed Annual Operational Plan was caused by the Ministry’s efforts to re-define its core functions and operations to make some real and tangible progress towards sustainable forest management.
We are now taking a totally different operational thrust. We have re-allocated 60 percent of all our resources – including staff, finances and assets to planting millions of trees and to growing the economy.
This is a major internal intervention that will redefine the importance of the forestry sector to addressing climate change and growing the economy.
This will be an exciting year as the Ministry begins to fully exploit the diverse opportunities that trees and forests provide and ensure that Fiji continues to play a prominent role in its global action to combat climate change through its Emission Reduction Programme.
The Ministry aims to strengthen its partnership with relevant stakeholders including the business community, civil society organisations, educational institutions, and other organisations, in our collective pursuit of sustainable forest management.
One major activity that the Ministry has embarked on is the planting of millions of trees annually.
His Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji, Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote, in January 2019 planted the first tree under the initial target of 4 million trees in 4 years.

This was followed by the Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and various dignitaries both locally and from abroad, including the United Nations Secretary-General, His Excellency Antonio Guterres. This has ensured that the importance of trees and forests are promoted at the highest level of governance both domestically and internationally. 
I am honoured that the Ministry has been able to coordinate the planting of more than a million trees and mangroves in 10 months from January to October 2019. Moving forward, the Ministry is now working on the new target of 30 million trees in 10-15 years.
The renewed massive tree-planting programme signifies the Fijian Government’s commitment to elevate the importance of trees and forests as critical to nation building, whilst reviving our kinship with nature and its relevance to our very own existence on this Planet.
Fiji’s tree-planting initiative is also part of the global reforestation movement to increase the Planet’s ability to absorb carbon, and ultimately address climate change.
The Ministry has also progressed Fiji’s efforts to reduce carbon emission through an Emissions Reduction Programme (ERP) which was submitted to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in July 2019, and was accepted without conditions.
Fiji is now the first Small Island Developing State and among the few countries in the world that are currently being considered to receive climate-finance from the World Bank. This milestone achievement continues Fiji’s global leadership role in addressing Climate Change.
The Ministry will also incorporate use of latest technologies to assist its operations that includes the use of drones to enhance its enforcement, monitoring and surveillance activities to combat illegal operations.
Recently, the Ministry got 3 staff trained and licensed as Remote Pilots from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia.
It is also with great pleasure to announce that we have finally acquired our first drone which is on display here, a DJI Mavic-2-Pro.
The drone will be fully operationalized for monitoring, reporting and verification of forest resources in the New Year as the officers finalize operational arrangements with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji.
I wish to thank the University of the South Pacific for continuously guiding the Ministry with its vast experience in drones. We look forward to an even closer collaboration as we also reach out to our tertiary institutions to help address the research gaps in the Ministry.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is anticipated that the Ministry will help realize the enormous potential of forests – with their capacity to simultaneously perform multiple economic, social and environmental functions – to help achieve development goals in and beyond the forest sector.                                                               
And I have every confidence that we are capable as a Ministry of achieving the bold and ambitious but realistic objectives that are articulated in the Annual Operational Plan.
We can achieve this, not in isolation, but through collaboration, integration, consultation and networking with relevant stakeholders. 
The plan sets focus to the call-to-actions that must be done in a timely manner as well as the strategies that must be incorporated in the operations.
With this, the Ministry can be more pro-active, effective, and sustainable. This Plan is both ambitious and realistic in the objectives it sets for the organization’s contribution to national development.
My specific message to the staff of the Ministry is that the plan is there for each and every one of you to guide your growth, manage priorities, assign responsibilities, track progress of your specific responsibilities, activities, deadlines, and budgets and detailed actionable steps to achieve them.  We call these Milestones. That is our task, our challenge, our opportunity.  Take ownership of it.
I commend this 2019-2020 Costed Annual Operational Plan in its totality to all staff of the Ministry and I call on all the staff to gather the wisdom, intelligence and physical wellness to deliver the goals laid out in the Plan for the sake of Fiji’s children and future generations. 
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Vinaka vakalevu, bhahoot dhanyavaad, sukria, thank you, and May God Bless Fiji.