SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 14) - The wrangle over ownership of the land on which the Yaqara Studio City is proposed to be built has dragged on for long enough.

This project has been dogged by controversy since its inception.

First announced by the then agriculture minister Poseci Bune in 2000, the Studio City development was to have created an unlikely 28,000 jobs and was said to involve a world famous Sydney-based film maker which later denied all knowledge of it.

The expectations have since been dramatically trimmed but the project is still capable of providing an important boost to the economy, particularly in the sugar-dependent west.

At the same time it is not new for a Fiji government to discover rival claims to land ownership when a major project is announced.

And in the case of the Studio City, rival claimants have for some years now argued their cases before the Native Lands Commission, the Native Land Trust Board and not least in the media.

And, of course, the development cannot proceed while the claims are unresolved.

The NLC has come down on the side of a certain land owning group one of whose opponents has appealed to the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase.

There is no shortage of documents to support each of the three claims and each is supported by a plethora of rumour, custom, legend and tribal lore.

Now Mr Qarase has pledged to review the documents.

That’s good news for the western economy – especially if the Prime Minister can help bring about a permanent solution to this dispute that has gone on for far too long.

For it is precisely this type of activity that makes investors think twice about risking their funds in Fiji.

And while some of the landowners may not care if the only sign of growth at Yaqara is grass, the rest of the country certainly does.

January 14, 2004



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