← Go back to Speeches

Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Hon. Kalaveti Vodo Ravu's Response to His Excellency The President’s Opening Adress on the Opening Of Parliament 2023

Mr. Speaker Sir, I rise to respond to His Excellency’s most gracious speech delivered in this August House to mark the opening of the new parliament under the People’s Coalition Government.

Mr. Speaker Sir, Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in this August House and his guidance throughout my campaign trail.  I also congratulate your appointment as Speaker of this august House and also congratulate Honourable Lenora Qereqeretabua on her appointment as Deputy Speaker. 
Mr. Speaker Sir, I wish to thank the Honorable Prime Minister for the confidence and trust placed on me to be part of your candidate listing and to be on your line-up of Ministerial portfolios.  I am deeply honoured Honourable Prime Minister Sir. 
I wish to also thank all my supporters nationwide that voted me here and I wish to assure you all, that I will be your voice in this august House. 
“Vinaka sara vakalevu na nomuni digidigi kei na nomuni veivakabauti”. 
Last but not the least, I would like to acknowledge and extend my sincerest appreciation to my immediate and extended families. I thank my wife, Elenoa and my children for their never ending support during my campaign trail. I also thank all my extended families nationwide for your confidence and trust. 
I share the sentiments of His Excellency the President, that the outbreak of COVID-19 has disturbed the global political, social, economic, religious and financial structures. 
Mr. Speaker Sir, as the nation regroups to take a grip of this crisis, the People’s Coalition Government is determined to elevate Fiji to greater heights with proactive planning and smart partnerships. 
The Government is of the people, by the people and for the people. We therefore must be united as one Nation.
The national debt has widened, putting all our eggs in one basket is not the solution. The potential of Natural Resource based sectors like Fisheries and Forestry, and others; cannot be further undermined.  The Ministry is working hard to shift its strategy to ensure a balance between protection and production, equitable benefits, and community empowerment through relevant capacity building and training.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the scope of such resources is wholesome and integrated - from the ridges of our Mountains to the trenches of our Oceans. I hold a portfolio that is most dear to the people of Fiji. Your Coalition Government’s ambition is to build on the efforts of those who have served before me, so that I may play my part in creating something even greater for those who have yet to arrive.
Mr. Speaker Sir, Fisheries and Forestry are two natural resource based and economic services sectors that can assist Fiji’s road to national economic recovery. 
The Ministry was one of the few that developed an economic recovery plan to help cushion the impacts of the crisis. In addition to the economic contribution, the Ministry also strives to make a social and environmental impact as well. 
The Ministry recognises the need to strengthen its laws and policies. This will support and guide the vision of the coalition government, in providing a capable environment that will allow the sector to advance to greater heights.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry’s 30 Million Trees in 15 Years initiative was very encouraging as we were able to engage with communities – women, youth etc. to set up nurseries and sell seedlings that were used for planting efforts across Fiji. 
Now, with your Coalition Government we will look to not only plant but ensure the survival rate is successful. 
During my maiden tour of the Central, Eastern and Northern division, I had the opportunity to present cheque payments for seedlings in Tailevu, Ovalau, Taveuni and Vanua Levu. 
Your Government, thanks all Fijians for your commitment to this national initiative and encourage you to continue to plant trees as your efforts not only helps in the fight against Climate Change but also contributes to Fiji’s climate commitments.
Mr. Speaker Sir, forestry research seeks to develop new technologies that can be used to assist in economic development programmes designed to improve human well-being, while protecting the natural resource base and the environment. 
Mr. Speaker Sir, we will inject more resources and efforts towards the research of non-wood forest products namely sandalwood, bamboo, sikeci and dilo. This will ease the pressure on the native forest, provide opportunities for diversification, and will benefit communities directly through engagement, training, seedling sales and products from mature trees.  
As a result of the above, reliance on timber and chips for economic growth will be reduced.
Mr. Speaker Sir, on the same note of Industry assistance and development we have our forestry sector boasting the largest mature mahogany plantation in the world. The Ministry is keen to work with the mahogany industry to facilitate the needs and boost the sector to greater economic contribution.
Mr. Speaker Sir, one of the ways to achieve this is through Forest certification. The Ministry in consultation with Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited (FHCL) will complete work on this process under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). 
This preparation of FHCL to target entry into the Certification Scheme is vital for the premium market positioning of Fiji’s mahogany products.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the forestry sector aims to reposition its current objectives in the pine industry. The Ministry will strengthen partnerships with all stakeholders and primarily the landowning units at the heart of every decision-making process. 
Pine forests currently leased already have a certification in place as a requirement from their timber and chip markets.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the health of Fiji fisheries is a matter of national importance because of three reasons;

  1. fish provide an important food source for Fiji’s population;
  2. mitigate the effects of natural disasters including the effects of climate change; and
  3. The interconnectivity of fishing, aquaculture and tourism is an economic driver that generates revenue for Fiji’s economy

This being said, and as clearly articulated in His Excellency’s address, the diversification of our resource based sectors, to strengthen the growth of our economy, increase the “size of our pie” and furthermore increase our potential to trade, is a change that this Government will give rise to, as we start afresh.

For this, Mr. Speaker Sir, we cannot and must not remain complacent, in the face of more challenges ahead of us, we must continue to seize every opportunity we have to grow our economy.

At this point Sir, I would like to speak briefly on areas that the Ministry of Fisheries will focus on and strengthen, to growing our resource-based sector.

Mr. Speaker Sir, in the context of regional fisheries, our tuna resources are key drivers of our small island economies and have always provided a solid revenue and economic base for Pacific Island Countries (PICs).  

The development and implementation of international and regional fisheries management framework have ensured we as PICs manage and use our tuna resources sustainably and also ensure that our fish stocks remain healthy and viable.

Your Coalition Government values its development partners and stakeholders in driving targeted investments within the domestic fishing industry. This includes upgrading the fishing vessels to fish in the high seas, invest in satellite technology to monitor our Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ) and reposition our investment and loan policing capacity.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the value of coastal fisheries to our nation is understated. The production from this fishery offers extensive benefits to our communities, including employment and nutrition, as well as social and recreational values.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the well-being of all Fijians is the ultimate priority for the Coalition Government. The Ministry is working to provide alternatives for an ever-increasing population. It will review current capital projects and engagement with other government agencies to empower communities to benefit economically and socially.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry will continue to collaborate with development partners to strengthen investment in the culture of high valued commodities to boost the fisheries sector.

The Ministry of Fisheries will refocus its current objectives of developing seaweed, edible oysters, pearl oysters, mabe pearls and giant clams to ensure these commodities reach their optimum levels of production to meet consumers’ demand.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry in partnership with the private sector will work on mass production of selected species in communities and work to identifying high end markets for these commodities.

Mister Speaker Sir, as stated in His Excellency’s most gracious speech,  the new efforts that will be directed to revitalising the co-operative movement, is welcomed.  This is aligned to the Ministry’s work in establishing Fishermen Cooperatives to foster greater participation by resource owners and to empower them in elevating and expanding their fishing businesses.  

Your Peoples’ Coalition Government will be steadfast in its efforts to ensure Fijians are food secure and have their needs provided for.

Mister Speaker Sir, the Ministry will review the scope of assistance to Food Security and Commercial Aquaculture Development programs to focus on large scale communal co-operative assistance.

We will aggressively work with farmers to assess their production as this will be a critical time for aquaculture in Fiji. 

As a result, Mr. Speaker Sir, this strategy will produce and supply the maximum number of Tilapia fry’s and Shrimp post-larvae to encourage large scale intensive farming, as well as to support small scale aquaculture Fijian farmers.

The intensifying impact of climate change on our oceans, for instance, is compelling us to review our approaches to managing our oceans and our fisheries resources.

Mr. Speaker Sir, manpower and financial support have always played an important role in sustainable fisheries and forestry management. 

If we are to ensure progress, we must invest in our workforce and identify appropriate funding to support their work. Your coalition Government through internal and external partners, will address these needs immediately. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, we all share the benefits of our fisheries and forestry resources. We are honored to have inherited these blessings from our forefathers who have protected these resources for us.

It is our time now to do the same. We must change the narrative.

Mr. Speaker Sir, it is my prayer that we will exercise wisdom in every front of our deliberation in this august house, to guarantee progress for the present and future generations.

I would like to end by stating the last line from the poem “Invictus” and I quote “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”, unquote. We all have a part to play in steering this ship of change.

May God Bless You, and May God Bless Fiji

Mr. Speaker Sir, Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad and thank you.

← Go back to Speeches