FIJI MINISTRY QUESTIONS SALE OF PRIVATE ISLAND

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 5) – Vatu Vara Island in Fiji’s Lau group cannot be put up for sale until the Lands Ministry approves an application to sell the freehold land.

This was clarified by the Lands Ministry's chief executive Niumaia Tabunakawai, who said any non-resident who sold their property in Fiji needed to first obtain the department's approval.

"There can be no sale if there is no application from the owner or its Australian agent, which is required by law because they are non-residents," Mr Tabunakawai said. "Although the island is freehold, the owner still needs to apply to the department if he wants to sell the island.

Mr Tabunakawai said he had not received any application since hearing of the news last week.

"The owner or his agent has not contacted my office about any application so we will just wait and see what happens."

Questions sent to the agent, Cheyenne Morrison in Australia, were not answered yesterday evening. The asking price for the island is FJ$130.3 million [US$75.7 million] .

It is understood the owner is a Japanese national who lives in the United States of America.

[PIR editor’s note: Vatu Vara is among numerous islands in Fiji currently listed for sale by Coldwell Banker Morrisons Private Islands, an agency in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia. Some other islands listed are Kanacea, Vanua Balavu and Kaimbu islands in the Lau Group, and an unnamed island in Natewa Bay, in Fiji’s Vanua Levu Island. The website also lists islands for sale in Belize, Bora Bora, and Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Vanuatu and elsewere.]

The Ministry of Fijian Affairs is looking into the matter.

The island, better known as Hat Island because of its shape resembling a hat, has a large flat limestone area on its eastern side. It is about 6,800 metres [4.2 miles] long and 2,000 metres [1.2 miles] wide and is described to be large enough to land a jumbo jet.

Smaller boats have access even at high tide and travelling by boat is the only means of transport to the island.

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