THE urban drift problem in the islands of Lau can be arrested if government supports a plan to open a port of entry in the province.
That's the word from the high chief of Totoya, the Roko Sau, Josefa Cinavilakeba.
"Lau needs this," he said. "We need government to support this plan, to help open up a point of entry and facilitate security."
Mr Cinavilakeba said members of the Lau Provincial Council supported the idea.
"We have asked the relevant authorities to consider this because it is a win-win situation for the people of Lau, for the yachting industry and for the nation," he said.
"Finally, we have something that can help us keep our people in the villages instead of coming to Suva for income-generating activities."
He said the council had discussed organic farming to facilitate the needs of yachties who sail through the islands.
The Lau Group was closed to yachting for many years and was not listed on the cruising permit issued by the then Ministry of Fijian Affairs. The islands could only be visited by invitation from a village headman with the approval of the provincial council, which levied high fees on yachts that visited.
This changed in 2010 when the government opened the group to yachting tourists.
Mr Cinavilakeba said the time was right to generate income from visiting yachts.
"There will be no need to travel to Suva for work if there's work to be done in Lau to cater for these tourists," he said.
"The road in Lau is by sea and it is logical that we have a port of entry here.
"The yachting industry is a big-money industry and we are quite optimistic about our future if government supports us."
He said villagers would revive their ancient art and handicraft to sell tourists at their doorsteps.
"The people of the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups stayput in the islands because the market comes to them. If the market comes to us, there'll be no need to make the costly travel to Viti Levu. Our people who have moved away can come back home."