MORE than 500 families residing in Lautoka's informal settlements will be relocated this year, says Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki.
He said the government was working with stakeholders on the resettlement process and identifying contractors who would assist with the movement of families who had settled at Natabua Seaside, Navutu and Velovelo.
"The relocation issue has been an unsolved issue over the past years but we will make sure people are relocated this year," Cdr Cawaki said.
Plans to resettle people living in Navutu to the new subdivision in Drasa on the outskirts of Lautoka began 10 years ago.
The move was announced to make way for the Lautoka City Council to fully develop Navutu into an industrial subdivision, a plan that had been in the pipeline for close to 20 years.
Like most informal settlements, Navutu is located in an environmentally-vulnerable area and is flood-prone as witnessed during the disasters of last year.
Ten years ago, 30 of the initial settlers of Solomon Island descent accepted government's proposal and relocated to Drasa. However, those who remained and newcomers to the settlement said they did not want to move when approached by stakeholders last December. About 140 families reside in Navutu today.
Cdr Cawaki said settlers need to accept that the places they reside in were vulnerable to natural disasters.
"So, in order for people to save their lives and belongings, they need to support the government's initiative of relocation.
"These settlers have suffered enough over the past years and we need to look at ways to best protect them."
Cdr Cawaki said a piece of land at Drasa, outside Lautoka City, has been earmarked for the resettlement.
"The government is looking at a permanent solution. The government doesn't support the idea of building homes in squatter settlements.
"At the same time people have been urged not to build new dwellings and instead prepare to be relocated."
Cdr Cawaki said his office was working closely with the Lautoka City Council on the relocation project.