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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 25) – In 1974, the people of Bua in Fiji started a massive pine-planting program in the nine districts of the province. Last week, they witnessed what had always been a dream for them.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the integrated Wairiki port in Bua marks the opening of a new era in terms of infrastructure developments for the province.

Government has set aside FJ$25.9 million (US$15.1 million) for the construction of the new port.

[PIR editor’s note: Bua is located on the west coast of the island of Vanua Levu.]

Chairman of the Bua provincial council Ratu Filimoni Ralogaivau said construction would take 12 months.

"Villagers from Wairiki would be given first priority in employment in the construction team," said Ratu Filimoni.

The new port would not only be beneficial to the people of Wairiki village but also to the neighbouring villages of Nawaca, and Nabouwalu.

Minister for Fisheries and Forests Konisi Yabaki said government's look north policy was now becoming evident.

"Today's groundbreaking ceremony is a cause for celebration and excitement," said Mr. Yabaki. "It kick starts a major capital development project that would create employment opportunities and dramatic changes to the current landscape in Bua."

Ratu Filimoni said McConnell Dowell Fiji Limited, which won the construction tender, would also build the access road linking the Nabouwalu Dreketi highway to the port.

Pine forest owners in Bua said having their own sawmill and port was always a dream for them.

"Every time government officials came they always said the saw mill and the port would be soon established in Bua but then every time there was nothing," said pine forest owners in Lekutu.

Roko Tui Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere said it was a big boost for the economy of Bua.

"I'm really thankful to government in having the port based at Wairiki," he said.

"The new port will not only benefit Bua but would also the people of Macuata as we are related," said Ratu Aisea.

Women from the neighboring villages of Nawaca, Wailevu and Nabouwalu who were also at the ground breaking ceremony said the construction of the new port meant a great deal of business opportunities.

Semaema Cagilaba of Nawaca village said she was thinking of cooking home made food and selling it to the workers on the site.

"Since the construction would be for 12 months it would be an income generating opportunity for us especially when we are not far from Wairiki," said Semaema.

"I believe if all the women put their hands together and provide the best available food for the workers we would be part of the major development in Bua."

Varasiko Gasau, who has been running a supermarket in Nabouwalu for the past 10 years, said the development was a sigh of relief for them, because business activity in Nabouwalu would rotate.

"I think everyone should be proud in Bua for the development and especially when Mr. Yabaki has also announced the construction of the new Dreketi Nabouwalu road."

After the groundbreaking ceremony villagers of Nawaca presented a whale's tooth to Mr. Yabaki to thank government.

The port will facilitate the export of pine chips directly to overseas markets.

Last week's groundbreaking ceremony had all the villages from Bua represented by either their village headman or the village elder.

Assistant Roko Tui Bua Siteveni Lalibuli said Bua was ready for a very bright future and hoped the outflow of people moving from the villages to urban centers would stop.

"A lot of people leave the village because no development is happening and with this sort of development I don't think people from Bua would not want to leave," said Mr. Lalibuli.

Tui Wairiki Ratu Jone Turaganiqali said his village had been blessed with such a major development.

"A first I could not believe it, but after negotiations I believe it was from God and I thank Him for that," said Ratu Jone.

"A lot of employment opportunities would arise and I hope the majority of the people in Bua would be given the opportunity to work," he said.

October 26, 2005

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