NATION

Court Rejects Appeal Against Water Treatment Plant Land Judgment

The Fiji Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court judgment on July 14, 2016 that the Government was not illegally and/or unlawfully occupying the land where the Suva Water
15 Jun 2018 11:00
Court Rejects Appeal Against Water Treatment Plant Land Judgment

The Fiji Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court judgment on July 14, 2016 that the Government was not illegally and/or unlawfully occupying the land where the Suva Water Treat­ment Plant is built.

The appellant, Kaminieli Volau Tuni­sau, had filed a lawsuit against the Min­ister of Works and Infrastructure, the Attorney-General and the then Native Land Trust Board.

He filed as a member of Mataqali Na­vurevure of the Yavusa of Matanikutu of Tamavua Village of the province of Naitasiri and on behalf of Suvavou Vil­lage in Lami.

In a writ of summons dated September 16, 2005 Mr Tunisau sought a declara­tion from the court that the Minister of Works and the A-G had illegally occu­pied the land where the treatment plant is built and had done so since on or about 1957.

He also claimed for damages in the sum of $5 million for rent for the occupation and use of that land from 1957 till date.

Furthermore he sought declaration that the then NLTB had acted in breach of its duties under the Native Land Trust Act by administering the piece of land for the plaintiff’s benefit.

Mr Tunisau had submitted that the mataqali owned 805 acres of land situ­ated in Tamavua, Wailoku and Suvavou.

Of the 805 acres, the plaintiffs took pos­session of 11 acres, three roods and 24 perches sometime in 1957 and built a wa­ter treatment plant and related facilities.

He claimed that the plaintiffs did not have a lease or licence and have not paid any lease rental to the mataqali for occu­pying the land in question.

In their statements of defence the plain­tiffs submitted that the land was compul­sorily acquired under the Crown Acqui­sition of Lands Ordinance (Cap 140).

Section Four of the Ordinance provides that it shall be lawful for the Governor to acquire any land without compensation any native land which is the property of a mataqali or a division of a mataqali and which may be deemed necessary to acquire for any of the purposes men­tioned therein.

The section also provides that the land that is to be acquired shall not exceed one twentieth part of the whole of the land belonging to the mataqali or divi­sion of a mataqali to whom the land ac­quired belongs.

In his written submissions filed on April 20, 2018, Mr Tunisau said the defi­nition of public purpose did not include a “Water Treatment Plant”.

Justice Eric Basnayake was of the opin­ion that Mr Tunisau was not entitled in law to challenge the legality of the acqui­sition of the land in question because of failure to amend pleadings.

Adding that it could not be challenged by way of writ of summons, but only through a judicial review.

He said there was no dispute with re­gard to the publication of the acquisi­tion in the gazette and that it stood as primary proof of the legality of the ac­quisition by reason of Section Four of the Interpretation Act of 1967.

Once published in the gazette the land in question ceased to be native land.

Justice Don Lecamwasam and Justice Jayantha Guneratne agreed with the reasons, conclusions and orders made by Justice Basnayake.

Further Mr Tunisau was ordered to pay $2500 each to the three respondents.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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