Island News

An interview with Mr Naisoso

Written By : CHRISTOPHER CHAND. Much has been said about the Naisoso Island master planned tourism project in Nadi Bay but what about the man behind the project. We talk
13 Nov 2010 12:00

image Written By : CHRISTOPHER CHAND. Much has been said about the Naisoso Island master planned tourism project in Nadi Bay but what about the man behind the project.
We talk to Bob Lowres, Managing Director of Relcorp (Fiji) Limited, the developers, of the Naisoso Island development.

What led you to develop Naisoso Island?
My wife Libby and I intended to retire to Fiji and built our home on Denarau eight years ago. I decided that retirement was not for me after six weeks of fishing and golf.
Having been a property developer for over 30 years I looked around for a development opportunity and developing an island sounded like a good idea.
That was when I came across Naisoso Island and immediately decided to purchase it. I am now working harder than ever.

What is your background?
I was born in Melbourne 62 years ago, lived there for 30 years and then moved to Brisbane and spent most of my time there until I relocated to Fiji permanently.
From an early age I had a good work ethic and was a paperboy delivering newspapers on my bicycle in the very early hours of the morning before I went to school.
After school I would deliver chemist prescriptions on my bicycle and on weekends I would clean cars and mow lawns.
I honestly believe that by being proactive at a young age towards working hard and making my own money has held me in very good stead in later years. I still get up very early every morning.
As a young man I was a trainee manager with a major retail company then moved to working for British Airways ending up as sales and marketing manager for them.
At the time I was living in Brisbane and I was offered a promotion back to Melbourne. I refused the promotion and decided to go into real estate which I had a growing interest in over a number of years.
I took to real estate like a duck to water and achieved high success in selling home units and quickly moved to becoming a director of Ray White Real Estate particularly involved in project marketing of major unit developments.
A natural progression from there was to start my own development company.
Over many years we developed subdivisions, townhouse developments, up market housing, low rise and high-rise apartments, tourism developments, shopping centres and commercial buildings.
What is different about doing developments in Fiji?
I think our greatest challenge has been working with the various government departments in trying to produce a first-class development in Fiji.
One of the things that we learned very quickly is that most departments are under resourced in terms of manpower and facilities.
We found that by working in a spirit of co-operation and engaging with the departments that we achieved far more than the confrontational approach adopted by others, perhaps in frustration of the process!
We are proud of the fact that we have assisted the government with funding an independent review of the Department of Town and Country Planning some years ago which saw the government implement many of the recommendations of the Brannock report.
Undoubtedly things take a lot longer in Fiji to be approved and I think that we have learned to not have unreal expectations of the process.

You have completed the infrastructure works and subdivision, where to from here?
We are very proud of what we have achieved with creating the residences of Naisoso subdivision.
Many of our buyers have written personal letters explaining how proud they are to have bought there and are looking forward to being part of our Naisoso community.
We will be making a formal announcement and holding a press conference on the 24 March advising of our new project for next year which is a 178 apartment resort hotel to be built on 10 acres on the beachfront.
We have one of the largest operators in Australia and New Zealand with a client base in excess of 2 million who will be managing our resort.
We don’t want to spoil the press conference so I will hold off announcing the name of the operator until then.
However, it is very exciting!
We will deliver on our promise to build the four and five-star hotel, retail and wellness in a financially responsible way and expect to have completion by 2014/2015.
Are you happy with what you have achieved so far?
I look back on the last six years and see a lot of effort that has gone into where we are at today.
Bottom line is I wouldn’t have changed anything and I am very much enjoying the journey. I think I will be a very happy and proud man when we have finished the complete Naisoso Island development and I can enjoy a cup of coffee at the Marina perhaps overhearing people saying how much they enjoy living and staying on Naisoso Island.

Much has been said about the Global Financial Crisis. Has that affected settlements?
There is no question that some people have been affected by GFC and more lately by the Christchurch Earthquake and as much as possible we have been considerate of these extra ordinary occurrences.
Suffice to say we have settled over $40m in sale over the past six weeks and are confident of presenting a cheque for VAT for example of approximately $6 million by Xmas.

Do you have any disappointments?
Quite honestly no although if pressed I would say the thing that does disappoint me is what I see as an endemic problem in Fiji of unsubstantiated rumours. I was quickly told that “if you haven’t heard a good rumour by 10am, you start one!”
It annoys me that the perpetrators of these rumours and there have been many about Naisoso trying to link us with other failed developments.
These rumours cause harm to Fiji as a whole not just to me personally and that I find disappointing.

Is there anything else you would like to comment on?
Yes I would like to thank many people who have assisted us with obtaining the approvals, working on the construction sites, managing the process, ANZ and FDB banks for having the belief in me and our project and most of all I would like to thank many of the local community who also bought Naisoso Island.


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