SUNBIZ

Tokatoka Nakelo Elders’ Resort Decision Pays Off

In March 1992 the elders of Tokatoka Nakelo of the Vanua of Vuda in Lautoka decided not to take the premium on the issuance of the lease for Elevuka Island,
25 Aug 2019 11:24
Tokatoka Nakelo Elders’ Resort Decision Pays Off
: From right: Treasure Island Resort General Manager Robert Waide, former Treasure Island Resort co-owner Bill Whiting welcomes Nakelo Pte Limited manager and Tokatoka Nakelo’s lawyer, Kitione Vuataka and other board members to the island on August 21, 2019. Photo: Charles Chamber

In March 1992 the elders of Tokatoka Nakelo of the Vanua of Vuda in Lautoka decided not to take the premium on the issuance of the lease for Elevuka Island, home to Treasure Island Resort. It has culminated in them fully owning the resort today.

That decision then saw them acquire 33.3 per cent shares with a marketing company, Islands in the Sun Fiji Limited, which was operating the former Hunts Travel and a tourism operator, the late Dan Costello Senior who ran nearby Beachcomber Island Resort.

The vision of the Tokatoka Nakelo elders was to one day buy out all shares and fully own Treasure Island Resort, a dream which materialised last week.

The island of Elevuka has a special meaning to the Nakelo people as the island is named after their Mataqali.

In their decision, the elders opted for their dividends to be directed for the shared purchase of the resort.

The next move by the elders was to buy out the one-third interest held by Mr Costello. This was done by a joint venture loan with Hunts Travel through the ANZ Bank which was then paid off by the Tokatoka Nakelo through their dividends.

This allowed the Tokatoka Nakelo to acquire 50 per cent of shares through their commercial arm, then known as Nakelo Pte Limited.

Nakelo Pte Limited chairman, Viliame Bogisa, said in doing this they had to sacrifice one of their assets by agreeing to Treasure Island Resort Limited selling their shares in Sala Levu Limited for another island which they owned, Kadavulailai. This is commonly known in the tourism industry as Bounty Island.

In February 2012, Nakelo Limited agreed to purchase the 50 per cent shares held by Hunts Investments Limited, which was made up of Mertens Limited and Sandsmee Limited, owned by tourism icon Bill Whiting. This purchase amount was to be paid off through instalments from dividends-shares in Treasure Island and which amounted to $12.5 million.

A loan made through the Fiji Development Bank allowed Nakelo Limited to pay off the remaining balance of $2.7 million to ANZ. This was done through Treasure Island Limited for the construction of 10 extra rooms at the resort and additional upgrade works.

Nakelo Limited had also given $1 million towards this upgrade and this was also done through dividends.

The loan from FDB was also used to pay off some shares held by Mertens Limited which amounted to around $5.4 million.

The remainder of the loan, $1.2 million, would go towards further upgrading and insurance for the resort.

“Tokatoka Nakelo presently has the Nakelo Education Trust which looks after the education of its people for tourism for jobs to be taken up at the resort,” Mr Bogisa said.

He said they are proud to have two of their own people holding senior positions at the resort. They are Senimili Meli, who is the Executive chef, and Human Resources manager Alipate Bola Vatonaki.

Employment opportunities

Nakelo Pte Limited board members with former Treasure Island Resort co-owner Bill Whiting (fifth from left) at the resort on August 21, 2019. Photo: Charles Chambers

Nakelo Pte Limited board members with former Treasure Island Resort co-owner Bill Whiting (fifth from left) at the resort on August 21, 2019. Photo: Charles Chambers

Tokatoka Nakelo’s lawyer, Kitione Vuataki, who is also the manager for Nakelo Pte Limited, said Sandsmee Limited will continue the management of the hotel for the next three years.

At the same time, they will train members of the Tokatoka to run and manage the resort.

He said three trainees of the Tokatoka will commence employment next week in the operations, marine water sports and rooms divisions.

“They hope to have qualified members of the tokatoka run the resort,” Mr Vuataki said.

Board members were ecstatic at now owning their own resort.

“We are actually the first landowning unit in Fiji to own a four-star resort,” Mr Bogisa said.

“We want to thank God because this would not have been achieved without his blessings.

“We want to thank our elders and former chiefs of Vuda who through their foresight has brought us to where we are today,” he said.

Get into business

Board member Jim Saukuru said this was a dream come true. It was a clear message to other landowning units to get out of their comfort zone and get into the business.

“If we can do it so can anyone,” Mr Saukuru said.

Mr Vuataki said the 2013 Constitution members under of landowning units have a right to economic participation in activities carried out on their land.

“These landowners can take shares as premium and acquire shares in the project as time goes on,” Mr Vuataki said.

“At the end of their lease, they are not left with the structures on their land which they will be required by law to pay and if they are not able to do this the lease agreement will continue and they will not receive and dividends.

“With Nakelo Pte Limited, they decided not to take shares but rather have their dividends acquire other shareholders shares.

“So when these landowners want to buy shares, they will not have to pay a deposit to the bank because they already have shares in the company and that could be used security.

“This is a way forward for the landowners and the people of Nakelo have shown that with patience, it could be done.”

Mr Vuataki said the people of Nakelo now own Treasure Island Resort and in three years’ time will have their own people managing the resort.

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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