RESIDENTS of Draunibota Bay outside Lami Town have united to express their disappointment over a proposed plan to destroy a vast area of mangroves in their area.
They claim a proposed development of an industrial city will see the destruction of mangroves, thus affecting the livelihood of more than 100 families.
Pacific Building Solutions has proposed to subdivide and develop 1.3935 hectares of freehold land at Lot 1 Waibola in Wailekutu, a residential zone, and further lease the foreshore State land that consists of more than 14 hectares of mangrove and shrub land in the Wailekutu flood plain, about 11km from Lami Town. The proposal is to construct PBS' main headquarters and have access to the foreshore for the purpose of sea transportation using its own barge and launches to load and offload containers and cargoes for heavy civil engineering works.
The development proposal, divided into three phases, proposed stage one to construct a jetty and wharf, a container yard, 10 lots for commercial complex, reclamation of the proposed 4.5 hectares of foreshore and tidal flat for construction of a maritime facility, deepening of immediate mud flat through dredging, sourcing landfill and marine slipway for boat repairs and maintenance.
Residents and supporters who have come together to form the Bay of Islandws Preservation Group, are strongly against the proposal saying the bay which is designated as a resource reserve under The Lands Department 1986 National Mangrove Management Plan, is the last stand of viable mangrove in the Suva Harbour.
Destroying the bay, they added, would also impact the lives of over 100 families who depend on the mangroves for their livelihood.
"It is ridiculous that this proposal is being considered," Lily Todd, 76, who has lived at Uduya Point since 1948 said.
Latileta Baleikisolomone, another resident, said the proposal for development did not consider the environmental effects and concerns of the residents.
"This may create employment but what about those families at Wailekutu, Nabukalou, Muaivuso and Waiqanake who will lose their livelihood if the industrial city is built?" she asked.
"This is the only patch of mangroves that have yet to be spoilt by the industrial world, it should remain this way."
PBS has said they have followed all correct procedures expected from the Ministry of Lands, including acquiring approval by traditional fishing ground owners as witnessed by the Roko Tui Rewa Tevita Kacanavesi.
"We have also had discussions for future business opportunities with the traditional fishing ground owners from Navakavu," Michael Fairfax the managing director of PBS said in a statement.
Taniela Tabukarawa, the assistant Roko Tui Rewa, who looks after areas in Suva, Toga and Beqa said the Yavusa Navakavu which owns Draunibota Bay has agreed to the development of the area.
"Development is good, it brings in money," he said.
"As long as the landowners agree to, it then we can do nothing about it.
"Our only plea to PBS is that they consider employment for the people in the area first if the development goes ahead," said Mr Tabukarawa.
Permanent Secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Tevita Boseiwaqa confirmed a decision on the proposed development is still pending, awaiting comments from relevant stakeholders which includes the Director Environment Jope Davetanivalu, Town and Country Planning, Ministry of Fisheries, Fiji Islands Maritime Safety Administration, the Mineral Resources and the Roko Tui Rewa Tevita Kacanavesi.
"Application (for the proposed development) has been received but it is still in their infancy stages," Mr Boseiwaqa said.