ROBERT MATAU - www.fijitimes.com
Saturday, March 01, 2008
THE Native Land Trust Board has rejected a report by an independent consultant on sugar recommending the de-reservation of all native land.
Board lawyer and spokesman Ro Alipate Mataitini said they had returned the report by Dr M Krishnamurthi to interim Finance and Sugar Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
Mr Chaudhry had forwarded the report to the NLTB for consideration on January 14.
"You will note that the Krishnamurthi Report recommended the de-reservation of all native land," Ro Alipate said.
"As far as the NLTB is concerned that is not an option since Fijians will be alienated from their land for at least two generations."
Ro Alipate said the report had been sent back to Mr Chaudhry with the recommendation for an in-depth research on the recommendations.
"At its 392nd meeting held at the NLTB head office in Suva this morning, the NLTB board elected not to endorse the report which proposed ways to rehabilitate the sugar industry," he said yesterday.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr Chaudhry yesterday proved futile.
The Krishnamurthi report says the first step in salvaging the sugar industry would be to de-reserve all native land.
"It is obvious that four hectare farms are uneconomical," the report said.
"Thus lots of 40 to 400ha are to be created and leased to one individual or company without affecting land ownership.
"The ownership will continue to be vested in the title holder.
"All investment will be by the lessee.
"The lease period is to be a minimum of 75 years or more."
The aims of the report include:
- Provide guidance for the rehabilitation of the sugar industry in Fiji and elsewhere where Fiji may have an interest;
- offer solutions for maximising land use, especially native reserves;
- help to improve production of sugar over the next four years; and
- diversify farmers income through relay crops.
Ro Alipate said the de-reservation of native land would only proceed on the merits of each application for a lease, and only with the majority consent of the landowning unit concerned.
"Management has been given approval to provide details to the Committee on Better Utilisation of Land on the costs of administering rent subsidies and the criteria for qualification of rent subsidies, given the recent increase in percentage of the unimproved capital value of native land," he said.
"The board noted the visit by a Chinese delegation promoting ethanol production from cassava and the delegation's contention that the new venture would be tailor-made for native landowners.
"The board suggested that such ventures as the one proposed by the Chinese could be just one of the many ways to expand the use of native land.
"Management has been encouraged to explore more ways to meet costs of rent subsidies."
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