Landowners Get $5M Bonus Payout

Landowners have been urged to give back to the pine industry. Newly appointed chairman of the Pine Group of Companies Ratu Wiliame Katonivere also warned pine landowners to desist from any illegal activity involving the sale of pine that belonged to Fiji Pine.
25 Sep 2020 12:32
Landowners Get $5M Bonus Payout
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with pine landowners who received their land security bonus payment at Tropik Wood, Drasa in Lautoka yesterday. Photo: Charles Chamber

Landowners have been urged to give back to the pine industry. Newly appointed chairman of the Pine Group of Companies Ratu Wiliame Katonivere also warned pine landowners to desist from any illegal activity involving the sale of pine that belonged to Fiji Pine.

Pine landowners yesterday shared $5 million in bonus from Pine Group of Companies, through the land security bonus payment initiative.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama officiated at the handout ceremony in Lautoka, saying it was the most challenging year Fiji’s pine industry had ever seen.

“Sawn timber demand dropped by 40 per cent, and the global wood chip market took a major dive both in volume and price,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“As a result, the Drasa saw mill had to be shut for five full weeks –– and even when production finally resumed, we were left faced with immense market challenges.

Touching more lives

“But Fiji Pine Group touches far more Fijians than those who work in our saw mills.”

An estimated 25,000 pine landowners rely on the industry through land that they lease, Mr Bainimarama said.

A number of such landowners come from far-removed, deeply-rural areas whose local economies depend on their connections to the rest of the country, he said.

“I know that this year, you need these bonus payments more than ever,” Mr Bainimarama said.

The payment brings to $24.1 million the sum Fiji Pine has paid out in land security bonuses since 2013.

Mr Bainimarama said the new payment system meant 30 per cent of bonuses were paid equally to each member of the mataqali, while the remaining 70 per cent was paid through income-generating and community-building projects.



“This new approach allowed a rapid injection of development funding among our landowning communities,” Mr Bainimarama said.

Some projects that landowners

have benefitted from included:

-a new borehole,

-a fishing boat and engine,

-van and trucks,

-cars to be used for a taxi business,

-building and fencing materials, and

-a cattle farm.

“You aren’t just seeing your investment grow your bank accounts, it is growing your community in a way that will last for generations,” Mr Bainimarama said.



Meanwhile, newly appointed Pine Group of Companies chairman Ratu Williame Katonivere warned landowners against the unlawful sale of pine that belonged to Fiji Pine.

He alleged the pine, which belonged to Fiji Pine Limited, were sold to private saw millers for as low as $20 a tree.

He made the comment at the land security bonus payout at Dara, Lautoka.

Ratu Williame said millers used a global positioning tracking system (GPS) to identify pine trees growing outside the lease boundary.

“One of the key challenges affecting the pine industry, your industry, is the repeated cases of illegal logging – and our landowners taking away the pine trees that Fiji Pine planted  years ago,” he said.

Through some technical issues, the lease boundary extended beyond the land lease area, Ratu Williame said.

“When these resources matured, many external parties  – mainly saw millers – started moving around with GPS to identify Fiji Pine resources that were outside the lease boundary.

“For short term cash, our landowners get trapped into selling these valuable resources that Fiji Pine Limited planted and waited for more than 25 years to maturity.”

Ratu Wiliame reminded landowners not to forget the years of investment of Fiji Pine Limited, in bringing these trees to maturity.



“There is no certainty in business going forward,” he said.

“No one would have expected that given the enormous challenging year, we would once again be hosting our pine landowners for lease security bonus payment.

“We have once again delivered.”

Ratu Wiliame said: “We invest between $2 million to $3 million every year, which take 20 to 25 years to realise returns.”

Through the course of the 20 to 25 year journey, the industry faces challenges such as weather, forest fires, stray animal damage and lease expiry.


Returns on investment

“Fiji Pine Group invests $75 million over 25 years and only at the 25th year, it starts to see returns from these investments,” Ratu Williame said.

“These investments are from Fiji Pine Groups operational cash flow.”

Ratu Wiliame likened the situatin to inviting banks and investors to invest in land for forest planting,  and then waiting for 25 years for the first returns with no certainty that what was planted would survive to maturity.

“However, on the flip side, if you invite investors for matured forests, there would be countless interested parties,” Ratu Wiliame said.

“The Pine group is not an 8am to 4pm business – it requires executive management to be personally involved in every aspect of the business, spending several hours in a day thinking and strategising.”

Ratu Wiliame said: “This is the time to give back to the industry.



Got A News Tip

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition