Analysis

Land Bank Initiative And Its Successes

The important point is that, at least 60 per cent of the landowners must agree before the rest of the process can take place. If the land owning unit disagrees, the process stops there. In addition, after the landowners have given consent, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama then designates the land before it finally goes into the Land Bank.
02 Mar 2020 09:51
Land Bank Initiative And Its Successes
Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources: Ashneel Sudhakar and SODELPA Member of Parliament Niko Nawaikula.

Analysis:

The Land Bank initiative which have been implemented since 2011 through the Land Use Division has undergone a number of reforms.

The Land Use Division/Land Bank is a Government initiative programme designed to make more land available for productive and socio-economic purposes.

This underpins Government initiatives of stimulating economic activities in the utilisation of available resources and with wider participation.

How does a mataqali put its land in the Land Bank?

The important point is that, at least 60 per cent of the landowners must agree before the rest of the process can take place. If the land owning unit disagrees, the process stops there.

In addition, after the landowners have given consent, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama then designates the land before it finally goes into the Land Bank.

The landowners do not incur any administration fee like they do with iTaukei Land Trust Board. The iTLTB takes its cut after it collects the lease money from the tenants and gives the remainder to the landowners. This cut pays for the iTLTB administration.

Landowners who lease their land to the Land Bank in one way receive more money than those who would prefer to stay with iTLTB.

Lands Minister Ashneel Sukhadar, while speaking to the Fiji Sun, said his biggest obstacle in getting land into the Land Bank was the level of misinformation.

“Like I said in Parliament, SODELPA MP Honourable (Niko) Nawaikula was instrumental in stopping a Land Bank deposit,” he said.

“There was a piece of land in Kokomo that was agreed by the landowners to be leased to the Land Bank, all the ground work was done and then Honourable Nawaikula went and instigated the landowners to withdraw and we are stuck to the choice of landowners, they gave 69 per cent consent for withdrawal, we returned the land to them.

“What has happened now is that the landowners are in a limbo. So iTaukei Land Trust Board does not want to take their land, Land Use Unit has withdrawn, the landowners who would have made good profit, good money out of this deal have lost out.”

Consultations and awareness sessions:

The Land Use Unit held approximately 30 landowners awareness/consultations from August 2019 to February 2020; 30 landowners’ re-visitations and 50 roadshows.

Landowners’ consultation is an integral fragment of the Land Use Division operations and the welfare of the resource owners is and will always be a priority. It has been the priority for Land Use Division to always re-visit resource owners to keep them on par with the developments of the Land Bank.

Awareness and consultations have increased to 73 for this financial year.

The success of these annual consultation workshops has helped bring forward proposals and views that reflect the wishes and aspirations of the resource owners, a two-way communication that encourages them to have a voice.

The participants expressed their individual evaluation responses, their gratitude with the idea of involvement and community liaison promoted by the Government to reflect the very best in terms of inclusivity.

Successes:

One of the successful projects is the first premium land rent payment to Mataqali Volivoli of Ketei Village in Savusavu for their 100 acres of land deposited in the Land Bank.

The ministry, on December 23, 2019, presented a cheque of $115,700 to the five of the 14 subsistence agriculture lots.

The progressive payments for the remaining nine lots will be paid out as and when received.

Each lot averages an area of six to eight acres for agricultural use, with premium payment ranging between $20,000 to $30,000, an annual rental of about $1200 to $1800 a year.

The LOU can also benchmark their land on the Mineral Fair Share Royalty Payout. The Ministry, in the past six months, has made a total of six Mineral Royalty Fair Share payouts totalling $5.05 million to three Land Owning Units with a total of 350 landowners and to two freehold landowners:

1) Mataqali Naicobo of Nawailevu, Bua received $1,027,063.49 for 203 members;

2) Mataqali Naita of Votua, Bua received $23,203.59 for 80 members;

3) Mataqali Serau of Nabiti, Dreketi (Macuata) received $63,828.90 to 67 members;

4) Nasomo Landowners Trust received $393,950.71 to 123 members; and

5) Vatukoula Gold Mines Limited received $3.5 million as a freeholder.

Therefore, all land deposited in the Land Bank and later determined as a prospect site for mining will receive similar Fair Share Royalty Payouts.

This is the best method in encouraging the Land Owning Unit on the best way to utilise their land and earn optimal returns.

Since inception in 2011, the ministry has achieved the following:

1) Designated a total of 118 land parcels with a total area of 10,569.43 hectares (26,106 acres);

2) Out of the 118 designations, two native land parcels have reverted to the landowners due to their wish to cease designation. This is an option available to the landowners if they so wish to withdraw their land from the designation after five years if the land remains unleased.

3) There is a total of 100 designated iTaukei land parcels, of which 89 land parcels have been surveyed;

4) Aligned to the objectives of the Land Use Act, the Land Use Unit has derived a total amount of $11,206,531.93 in lease proceeds (71 leases). This amount is expected to increase before the end of this financial year; and

5) The market valuation of the designated customary land with ongoing assessment of prevailing market rates is a progressive component of the division’s operations. This is a proactive measure adopted to ensure pre-determined market rates for designated properties. This is made available to both landowners and potential investors as and when required.

The Lands Ministry, in this financial year, is also taking the initiative to utilise idle State land by depositing it into the Land Bank.

This is the simplest and most efficient way to utilise idle land and earn revenue for the Government.

This initiative includes, not only for agricultural land but residential, commercial, industrial and other types of State land as well.

This method will result in the following benefits:

1) Put the land into better use and increase soil fertility and ensuring future food security for the nation;

2) Promotion of compatible uses;

3) Provides employment for the Fijian people in terms of land development;

4) Increase investment opportunities;

5) Promote rural development; and

6) Revenue collected will be used for the provision of basic facilities and improvement of the country’s infrastructure, and many other positive impacts that will benefit the community and the local economy as a whole.

Furthermore, the ministry has completed the planning and consultation stages in the Central, Western and Northern Divisions. It has commenced with the concept plan for four State land parcels identified for subdivision, a 20-hectare land in Cuvu Top, Nadroga, the development of 100 residential lots, 300-acre of farmland in Vunicibicibi, Naitasiri, approved scheme plan for the growth of a town centre in Dreketi and 3.66 hectares of industrial land in Savusavu.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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