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Hon. Kalaveti Vodo Ravu - Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Parliament Address May 22, 2024

·       Honourable Speaker Sir;

·       Honourable Prime Minister;

·       Honorable Deputy Prime Ministers;

·       The Honourable Leader of Opposition;

·       Honourable Members of Parliament;

·       Ladies and gentlemen.

Mister Speaker Sir, I rise to provide an update on the progress of our logging operation in the Maritime Islands, a vital project that contributes to our economy and supports our local communities.  A project where Government has also re-strategised and invested heavily since this financial year, recognizing and addressing the plight of resource owners on these islands.

The total area of pine to be harvested in Muani, Kadavu for this project amounts to 83 hectares, a significant undertaking that requires careful planning, considerable logistics and interagency coordination, before execution.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I am pleased to announce that $600,000 was released last Friday from the Ministry of Finance to meet the barge costs for Muani.

Mr. Speaker Sir, groundwork costs, including field verification for stocktaking as a requirement for Harvesting License and Muani jetty scoping works, come to a total of $13,500. The barge grant of $600k will cover the transportation of 6 barge loads, each carrying 2000 tonnes, from Muani to Lautoka port.

Mr Speaker Sir, I am pleased to report that logging companies Drelaga Holdings Ltd and Burning Bush Pte. Ltd is currently conducting logging in Muani. The expected first load is scheduled for 1st June 2024.

Mr. Speaker Sir, please allow me to highlight the details of the machines that make up the logging fleet currently in Muani. A total of 4 John Deer skidders, 3 CAT Bell Loaders, 1 CAT Front Loader, 1 CAT Bulldozer, and 3 trucks - one 12-wheeler and two 10-wheelers. In addition, 4 twin cabs are used as standby vehicles on-site.

These machines and vehicles are essential for the successful transport, stacking, and stockpiling of logs at every stage of our operation as per a standard requirement of harvesting plans.

The harvesting crew consists of 30 dedicated contractors, each with their own specific roles, from machine operators to chainsaw operators, all working together to ensure the smooth operation of our harvesting project. These workers are currently camping in the village of Muani, with accommodations provided by the landowners for the comfort and convenience of the contractors.

With guidance from the Fiji Roads Authority, the port construction is anticipated to be completed on 24th May 2024, subject to favorable weather conditions.

Mr Speaker Sir, importantly, the landowners will be paid by Tropik Wood Industries at a rate of $60 per tonne, resulting in an expected total payout of $0.8 million. This financial support will not only benefit the landowners but also underlines our commitment to fostering positive relationships with our communities who rely on Government for technical support towards investments.

Mr Speaker Sir, the same initiative has been projected for Lakeba whereby another $250,000 has been released as an additional grant to Fiji Pine Trust from the Ministry of Finance. This will be for the construction of a port in Wainiyabia, Lakeba in consultation with the Fiji Roads Authority. Forest Power House, a company that will be contracted to construct the Lakeba Port, is expected to start before the month end. The Harvesting License is currently being progressed to ensure all requirements are complied with.

The expected return to the Landowners in Lakeba will be $960,000 for the initial licensed area of 83ha. The total area stocked in Lakeba is about 700ha and licences will be progressively determined based on current levels of compliance and preparation of harvesting plans for identified, viable areas, suitable for harvesting. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry is working closely with the Fiji Pine Trust in developing a 20 Year Forest Management Plan with Harvesting Schedules for all Pine Schemes in the Maritime islands.  Narocake Pine Scheme in Gau has also been assisted through Forestry’s Pine Development Capital Project in processing Pine Posts.  The Ministry has committed a total of $25,000.00 and produced a volume of 79 cubic meters worth $59,724.75 from these sales. With these funds, the Narocake Pine scheme was able to purchase a 3 ton canopy truck. Together with the assistance from the Ministry of Trade & Co-operative, the scheme managed to develop the Narocake Co-operative Ltd as part of our community development programme from Fiji Pine Trust Grant and Head 32 Maritime Pine Development.

Mr Speaker Sir, under Head 50, Moala and Lakeba had been assisted in the Housing Rehabilitation Programme. A total of 82.5 cubic meters for Moala which is equivalent to 15 house frames and 60.5 cubic meters for Lakeba, which is equivalent to 11 house frames, were funded. Value of timber harvested and processed for Lakeba house frames is $66,550.00 and $90,750 for Moala.

Mr Speaker Sir, there are various measurable Outputs and Outcomes from these maritime project support and beneficiaries, including the communities, private sector and the nation as a whole:

For the Communities, there are firstly, Financial Benefits: This includes the payment of $60 per tonne to landowners, resulting in a total payout of $0.8 million. This direct financial support will enhance the livelihoods of the local landowners and their families.

Secondly, there are Employment Opportunities for communities: The project will create numerous job opportunities in logging, transportation, and port operations, leading to increased employment in the local communities.

Thirdly, Infrastructure Development: The construction and upgrading of port facilities, guided by the Fiji Roads Authority, will improve local infrastructure, providing long-term benefits to the communities.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the Private Sector will also benefit:

Firstly, through Economic Activity: The release of $647,000 to Tropik Wood Industries will stimulate economic activity within the private sector through barge subsidy

Secondly, Business Opportunities: The logistics and transportation sectors will benefit from the movement of 6 barge loads, each carrying 2000 tonnes of logs, creating new business opportunities and partnerships.

Thirdly, Sustainable Practices: By adhering to sustainable logging practices, the private sector can demonstrate its commitment to environmental stewardship, corporate social responsibility, enhancing its reputation and ensuring long-term viability.

And for the Nation as a whole Mr. Speaker Sir, there will be:

Firstly an expected Economic Growth: The overall economic contribution of this logging operation, including job creation and business opportunities, will support national economic growth.

  • Secondly, Sustainable Development: The project aligns with our national goals of promoting sustainable practices, ensuring that our natural resources are managed responsibly for future generations.

  • Thirdly, Enhanced Infrastructure: The improvements in port facilities and related infrastructure will have lasting positive impacts on national logistics and trade capabilities.

Mr. Speaker Sir, with the cooperation and assistance of our financial and investment partners, we are confident that this long overdue harvesting of matured maritime pine project, will yield positive outcomes for all stakeholders involved. Together, we can continue to drive economic growth, promote sustainable practices, ensure improved livelihoods and support the well-being of our people.

I thank you for your attention and support as we work towards a prosperous and sustainable future for Fiji.

 Vinaka vakalevu.

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