Public consultations in the North on the Heritage and Investment Fiji Bills

Members of the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights are currently conducting public consultation in the Northern Division on the Heritage Bill 2021 (Bill No. 3 of 2021) and the Investment Fiji Bill 2022 (Bill No. 5 of 2022).

According to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee, Hon. Alvick Maharaj, the public consultation and site visits will greatly assist the Standing Committee in putting together its report, which is expected to be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament.

“For possible world heritage sites in the Northern Division, the Standing Committee visited the Yaduataba Island, the sanctuary of Fiji’s crested iguana, the Nagigi Naag Mandir in Labasa and the Floating Island in Kurukuru, Lagalaga, about 55km from Labasa. The Standing Committee also conducted site visits at the Waisali Forest Reserve in Savusavu and the Tagimoucia lake in Taveuni.”

“Public consultations were also held with business communities and youth groups, as we believe that we have existing potential investors and future potential investors in the Northern Division,” Hon. Maharaj said.

The Vice-Chairperson of the Seaqaqa District Advisory Council, Mr Prakash Chandra said the visit by the Standing Committee was an educational one as it helped them better understand the Bills that are currently being discussed in Parliament.

“This is the first time we are having this meeting in Dagau, Seaqaqa and it has been an educational programme for us all. Once both Bills are passed, the people of Vanua Levu will greatly benefit as tourists will be coming to the North, the companies and small businesses will benefit together with the shopkeepers, taxi drivers and bus companies,” Mr Chandra said.

Head of Mataqali for Bouwaqa where the Floating Island is located, Ms Akanisi Vinaka, thanked the Standing Committee for coming all the way to Lagalaga to shed light on the Heritage Bill.

“For a long time, we have been planning to develop the area where the Floating Island is located and today, we are happy to hear that the passing of the Bill will open the way to develop the area that will allow tourism to grow in the Northern Division,” Ms Vinaka said.

Labasa businessman Mr Atiff Ali welcomed such initiatives, such as the Investment Fiji Bill and the Heritage Bill but he requested that the export and the local domestic supply should be looked into.

“Before, we focus on the foreign investors, what I would like to implore everyone, the Standing Committee Members, the corporate bodies such as Investment Fiji, to look into the matters pertaining to export and pertaining to local domestic market supply.  I am particularly speaking in terms of primary industry.”

“On one hand, we welcome this Bill but on the other hand, we would like to implore the Government, to look into the process that we believe has become bureaucratic,” Mr Ali said.

The Heritage Bill 2021 aims to establish a Fiji Heritage Council, which would be responsible for advising the Minister responsible for Heritage on matters regarding the recognition and management of places in Fiji, which have potential and actual world heritage values.

The Investment Fiji Bill 2022 was introduced to realign the mandate and functions of Investment Fiji to that of a promotional agency, and which would enable Investment Fiji to move away from being a regulator of foreign investors in Fiji and to focus primarily on the role of being a promotional agency for attracting both foreign and domestic investors to invest in Fiji.

The Standing Committee will begin their public consultations and site visits in the Central and Western divisions from Wednesday, 23 February 2022.