Landowners Can Challenge Land Use Act: PM

“The landowners have a say not just in the fair market rent of the land but also the terms and conditions of the leases including the duration,” Mr Bainimarama said.
25 Mar 2021 09:54
Landowners Can Challenge Land Use Act: PM
Minister for Trade and Acting Attorney General Faiyaz Koya (from left), Assistant Minister forn Employment Alvick Maharaj and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama outside Parliament on March 23, 2021. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Landowners have the right to challenge compliance or noncompliance of any conditions issued under the Land Use Act of 2010.

This was clarified by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Parliament yesterday.

While making his contribution on the review on the follow-up audit on the Management of the Land Reform Programme, he said Section 15 does not take away that right rather it protects the interest of majority of the landowners who choose to put their land in the Land Bank.

By excluding the jurisdiction of the courts from challenging the designation of the land, he said the Act protects the majority which was 60 per cent of the iTaukei Landowning Unit.

“It prevents any disgruntled or politically motivated individuals in bringing court cases against decisions made by majority of the members of the landowning units. Thereby frustrating the majority of the landowners of the full enjoyment of the benefits from the lease of their land,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“It is unfortunate that the Opposition continues to misinform and mislead Parliament. The plain and simple fact is that the Land Use Act empowers the iTaukei landowners to better participate in the decision-making process of how their land is utilised for their benefit as well as future generations and the Fijian economy.”

He said the productive utilisation of land was an important priority for any country and the Fijian Government has always placed great emphasis on better utilisation of natural resources, while ensuring a sustainable future for all.

“Under this Government we have come far in appropriately managing the development of land. Fiji’s most comprehensive long-term strategy, the National Development Plan, clearly places priority on reforms that improve access to land,” he said.

He added that the Opposition misleads and misinforms Parliament with its misinterpretation and selective references of the Land Use Act 2010 by purporting to argue that he has the complete power to make decisions on the utilisation of iTaukei land without consulting the landowners.

“They fail to tell us that the Act prescribes the minimum of 60 per cent of the members of the landowning unit must provide their consent before any iTaukei land can be designated for leases under the Act. No land can be designated by the Prime Minister unless and until 60 per cent of the iTaukei landowning unit provides their consent,” he said.

He clarified that Section 5 states that the ownership of iTaukei land shall always remain with the iTaukei landowners and Section 11 details that any lease issued under iTaukei land must at all times take into consideration the best interest of the landowners.

“The landowners have a say not just in the fair market rent of the land but also the terms and conditions of the leases including the duration,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“The protections and safeguards provided in the Act are much more what is provided to the iTaukei landowners under the iTaukei land Trust Board laws and policies. For this reason it is not surprising that so many iTaukei landowners have in the past under the former SDL Government been frustrated with the management of their land.”

Edited by Selita Rabuku

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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