Police and Forestry Partnership to Curb lllegal Activities
The following is the address by the Permanent Secretary for Forestry Pene Baleninabuli at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Fiji Police Force and the Ministry of Forestry on Friday 5th February, 2021
The Commissioner of Police – Mr Rusiate Tudravu
Senior Officials from the Fiji Police Force and the Ministry of Forestry
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen
A very good morning and a warm welcome to you all.
Despite the unfavourable start to 2021 what with the series of natural disasters, it is pleasing that we are starting this new month on a much more pleasant note.
This partnership between the Ministry of Forestry and the Fiji Police Force is something that we in the Ministry have been looking forward to for quite a while, and we are delighted and excited that it is being formalised today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.
Government, through the Ministry of Forestry, is mandated to help conserve, manage and develop Fiji’s forest resources to ensure their sustainable use for the benefit of all Fijians, not only for the current generation, but importantly for our future generations. Government acts in the best interests of all Fijians when it comes to managing natural resources like forests.
Sustainable management of our precious resources is also required to safeguard forest ecosystem services such as the water filtration and purification to provide clean safe freshwater, not only for our drinking water; but to support all life.
Trees and forests, when managed well, can also help reduce soil erosion and flooding. The Ministry is confident that the restoration of forests in water shed areas will help reduce flooding.
With the increasing threat of climate change, it is vitally important for us to ensure that Fiji’s forests contribute to not only mitigating the impacts of climate change, but importantly to offsetting carbon outputs. The recent signing of an agreement with the World Bank for Fiji to enter into carbon trade is a significant and historic step in this direction. And so is Fiji’s tree-planting and growing revolution where the target is to plant 30 million trees in 15 years.
The Ministry’s work within the forest areas is largely governed by the Forest Act 1992, in addition to compliance with the Environmental Management Act, the Native Lands Act and Native Land Forest Regulations. Within the confines of these legislation and regulations are standard operational guidelines provided through the Forest Policy and the Fiji Forest Harvesting Code of Practice 2013.
Current statistics indicate that Fiji’s forest cover is approximately 1.1 million hectares or about 60% of the country’s total land area of 1.8 million hectares. The National Forest Inventory this year will give us updated information on our forests.
In the meantime, the 1.1m hectares of forests is a lot of area to manage and while the Ministry has staff located at our 20 field stations across the country, this partnership with the Fiji Police Force will significantly expand our reach and ability to monitor forest areas and to promote sustainable management. We note especially that the Fiji Police is one of the most strategically positioned agencies across the length and breadth of our country.
The MOU lays the foundation for the systematic sharing of information between the Ministry of Forestry and the Fiji Police Force. This will help develop synergies to improve Fiji’s overall management of our forests, which includes reducing any illegal operations.
It complements the collaborative efforts that the Ministry has with other agencies like the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).
The MOU further complements similar information-sharing arrangements that the Ministry recently signed with the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, the Fiji National Provident Fund and the Ministry of Employment, Industrial Relations and Productivity.
Ladies and gentlemen, this strengthened collaboration with key stakeholders presents a united front towards sustainably managing Fiji’s forests, growing the forestry sector, ensuring that the sector increases its contribution to Fiji’s development, and importantly also ensuring the equitable distribution of wealth from our forests.
On behalf of the Minister for Forestry, Honourable Osea Naiqamu, the management and staff of the Ministry, I wish to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Commissioner for Police and the Fiji Police Force for being quick off the mark in formalising this partnership and facilitating training programmes and field operations already.
The Ministry looks forward to a very successful partnership on behalf of all Fijians and our beloved Nation.
Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu