Below is the speech by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the opening of the Vatuwaqa and Stinson Parade bridges. Honourable Cabinet Ministers, Vanua o Rewa; Your Excellency, the Chinese Ambassador
12 Jan 2018 16:32
Traffic moves along the newly built Stinson Bridge after the official opening yesterday, January 11, 2018.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.

Below is the speech by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the opening of the Vatuwaqa and Stinson Parade bridges.

Honourable Cabinet Ministers,

Vanua o Rewa; Your Excellency, the Chinese Ambassador to Fiji; members of the Chinese delegation; the Board, management and staff of the Fiji Roads Authority; distinguished guests, my fellow Fijians. Bula vinaka to you all.

Today is a very special day, as we open two major bridges in the greater Suva area that have been completely re-imagined and re-engineered to serve a modern, growing, ambitious nation.

In front of us we have the brand new Stinson Parade Bridge and, after this opening ceremony, I will go to cut the ribbon on the newly-upgraded Vatuwaqa Bridge.

Fiji on the move

My fellow Fijians, Fiji is on the move. We are rapidly becoming a more modern and more prosperous society.

Eight straight years of growth for the Fijian economy have meant eight straight years of rapid and unrelenting progress for our nation, eight straight years of unprecedented infrastructure development and eight straight years of better opportunities for all of our people, especially young Fijians.

More Fijians are finding better, higher paying jobs; that means more are buying cars to travel to work. More Fijian businesses are being started and are expanding; that means they need to reach more markets in Fiji and those overseas.

And more of our people are connecting with more of their fellow Fijians, forging bonds with one another, and they want to travel and spend time in areas all around the country.

I know that spending time stuck in traffic can feel like the furthest thing from progress. It keeps us away from our families and it keeps from being productive.

That is why, as Fijians are earning more, spending more and travelling more often, we have also undertaken such an ambitious slate of roading infrastructure development.

And that plan of action has led us to the opening of these two new bridges today – developments that recognise our growth so far and that prepare us for even greater achievement in the years ahead.

Here downtown, the new Stinson Parade Bridge will massively free-up congestion in our downtown area, making the roads safer for our drivers, making the entire area far more accessible for passers-by, and giving Fijians living in Lami, and beyond, access to our capital like never before.

And in Vatuwaqa, the commute home for so many of our people working in Suva and living in Nausori will now become far faster and more convenient, thanks to this new bridge.

If you are a shop-keeper in downtown Suva who lives out of the city, this is a victory for you, because you can return home to your family more quickly after you have closed shop at the end of a busy day.

Victory for our vendors

Today marks a victory for all of our vendors because you can bring your goods to market in our capital much more easily. It is a victory for our taxi and bus drivers who can work throughout the Suva-Nausori-Lami corridor without being bogged down in endless hours of traffic.

And today, all the hard-working citizens of Suva, Lami and Nausori can celebrate a victory, because they can now use these bridges to come to work and return home when the day is done.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a victory for Fiji, and we can mark these victories because our economy has done so well, and we’ve put in the work to plan out our development and deliver for the Fijian people.

My fellow Fijians, in our journey the past decade, as we’ve sought to build up our nation, whether by extending essential services, like water and electricity, building new schools or extending and upgrading our roads, so often we have had to overcome challenges borne from the mistakes of past governments.

Obstacles that were placed in our path by the poor planning, corruption and years of neglect under past leadership in this country.

So often, we have had to replace aging infrastructure that wasn’t built to a high enough standard. So often, we’ve had to overcome the short-sighted city and town planning of the past in order to accommodate our rapidly expanding economy.  And so often, we’ve seen rural and maritime areas that were too long disregarded, and that lacked a foundation of infrastructure necessary to welcome new development.

We all saw the consequences of taking short-cuts in development back when Cyclone Winston devastated our nation. Schools, homes and other buildings were reduced to rubble because they lacked proper building plans and they weren’t built to a high standard. Well, instead of picking up the pieces, year after year, cyclone after cyclone, my Government is choosing a different route.

We are choosing to put the money and time in right now, to build infrastructure that can withstand severe weather and other climate-related impacts, that can meet the needs of our growing economy and that will support everything our nation will achieve in the years to come.

In Vatuwaqa, the old Fletcher Bridge was in no condition to support what Suva and Nausori needed. The structure was rapidly deteriorating when it should not have, and it could not carry the stress of heavy vehicular loads.  The same could be said of the old Stinson Bridge here in the harbour. They were both on the verge of collapsing, even though they were originally designed to have stood strong for far longer.

Acknowledging Chinese government

And I’d like to thank the government of China for agreeing to partner with my Government in funding and constructing the upgrade of both of these new bridges. China has been a steadfast partner in development to Fiji, particularly after 2007.

And to Your Excellency, the Chinese Ambassador to Fiji, I say vinaka vakalevu and xie xie.

Both bridges we are opening today (yesterday), along with the accompanying drainage, footpaths and traffic safety facilities, are built to internationally accepted standards. Both the bridges meet the high standard of 50 tonnes gross weight capacity and 14 ton axle loading.

My fellow Fijians, my Government is here to ensure that we build for the future. So that we cannot only celebrate a job well done today, but we can rest easy, knowing that we did not settle for quick fixes, but that we’ve built schools that are worthy of the children who call them home, roads that can be depended on, rain or shine, and networks of infrastructure that meet high international standards.

This morning (yesterday), I would like us all to take a moment, and consider what exactly the years ahead will bring for Suva, Nausori and for all of Fiji. Your great, great grandchildren may one day call our capital home, they will walk these same streets, and when they look out on the Suva skyline, what Fiji will they see?

That is a question I ask often myself, as your Prime Minister. While no one of us can say with certainty what the future holds, we can do everything in our power to fill those future generations with pride when they think back on the work we carried out today. We can do what we can to make these years the years we found our true self, as one nation and one people.

And we can make the decision, not only to put Fiji on this path of great progress, but to keep us on that path in the years ahead.

More infrastructure plans

We’ve set aside nearly 70 Million Dollars to upgrade and expand roads and roundabouts in the Suva-Nausori–Lami corridor where nearly a third of the Fijian population lives because we are committed to building a foundation of road infrastructure that you, and your children can rely on.

We’ve set aside 9.5 Million Dollars to construct footpaths to allow Fijians to walk safely about their communities. And another 4.5 Million Dollars to construct streetlights in Wainibokasi, Vuci, Nadera, Nadawa, Nasinu, Dobuilevu, Kalokalo and Cresent Road. You can see the new development across Suva for yourselves, right in front of Thurston Gardens we recently opened newly repaved roads and footpaths that Fijians are already enjoying, and that development will continue.

Our work isn’t only being carried out here in the capital. We’ve budgeted 31 Million Dollars this financial year towards replacing 16 critical bridges all over Fiji, with another 30 planned to be replaced over the next five years.

All of that is part of our strategy for making Fiji a stronger, more prosperous and more unified nation by connecting Fijians to one another, opening up areas of the country to the rest of Fiji and the world, and giving our people access to infrastructure that can be depended on for generations.

Ladies and gentlemen, these new bridges we are opening today will make life easier. They will make life better. And, when you boil down all the planning, policy-making and budgeting, that is what my Government strives to do every day for the Fijian people.

I would like to thank the China Railway Group for designing and constructing both new bridges, and the dedicated men and women of the Fiji Roads Authority, the Fiji Electricity Authority, the Water Authority of Fiji and Telecom Fiji Limited, along with the Department of Lands and the Suva City Council for helping make these bridges a reality for the Fijian people.

The Suva-Nausori-Lami corridor is thriving, thanks to hard-working Fijians who are making our largest population centre even more dynamic and prosperous every year.

With these bridge openings, the sky is now the limit for what the Suva-Nausori-Lami economy, and all of Fiji, can grow to become. This area of Fiji is one of the great engines of our economic growth. When you do well, all of Fiji benefits.

So keep up the good work, and use these bridges to carry our beloved Fiji into a better, stronger and more prosperous future.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

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