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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, June 11) – Fiji landowners of the mataqali Nasovu, Naqelelevu and Qaraniyaku are seeking compensation for the use of Laucala Island and have raised concerns on the proposal by resort owners on the island to extend the airstrip.

[PIR editor’s note: A "mataqali" is a traditional landowning unit in Fiji. Laucala Island, a private island once owned by the late Malcolm Forbes, founder of Forbes Magazine, is in the Taveuni island group off the eastern coast of Vanua Levu in Fiji.]

In a statement yesterday, they said the villagers met and raised their grievances with the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Tevita Vuibau, who visited the island, off Vanua Levu, last week.

"The objective of his visit to Taveuni is to talk directly to the people and stakeholders and physically inspect development projects and sites and to get feedback on how the ministry's role and responsibilities can be improved or changed," he said. "The three mataqali claim that Laucala Island was sold in 1853 for 100 pounds without their knowledge and they are not getting enough returns from the developments taking place on the island. The land area of Laucala is 12 square kilometres."

Mr Vuibau said the owners of Laucala Island Resort were re-building a new one, which was to feature one of the biggest swimming pools in the South Pacific.

He said the landowners were concerned whether an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out on the part of the island used to cater for yachts.

"Likewise, with the proposal to extend the airstrip on Laucala Island, landowners fear that the extension by 400 metres from the existing site will mean reclaiming land, thus affecting their source of livelihood from the sea," he said

Mr Vuibau reassured them his ministry would look at all the legal aspects pertaining to the sale of Laucala and see how they could get the best deal from it.

He said he would look into the issue of the extension of the airstrip and follow-up with the necessary authorities on whether there had been destruction to the environment.

Mr Vuibau was expected to visit the Yavusa Welagi yesterday to clarify issues on crown land and boundaries.

Mr Vuibau's visit continues until the end of the week.

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