THE Methodist Church in Fiji has voiced its support for moves to revive the sailing of traditional i-Taukei canoes as a viable option for inter-island transport.
Church general secretary Reverend Tevita Banivanua said sometimes the key to the future lay in the past.
Traditional sailing, which has a deep connection with the Methodist Church in Fiji when the first Wesleyan missionaries arrived from Tonga, is being promoted this week in the Capital City as part of the Hibiscus Festival.
The church's symbol is that of the takia, which signifies the carrying of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the islands.
"These vessels were an integral part of transportation and communication for the people of Fiji for centuries. Today, they are usually only sailed in competitions," Mr Banivanua said in response to questions by this newspaper.
"I look forward to when they can be used again for these purposes."
Mr Banivanua said the wind and paddle-powered canoes were more in line with the good stewardship of nature.
"For the outer islands of Lau and Yasawa, the takia and drua may be a good option for inter-island transport and perhaps be one of the solutions to the difficulties faced in inter-island shipping.
"It saves energy, saves money and may even be safer for travel as the outrigger on the takia or double hull of the drua may provide stabilisation."
Mr Banivanu also acknowledged that while the building of these traditional vessels required traditional skill, so did the methods for sailing and these needed to be compliant with safety regulations.
"It is also important that whatever traditional sailing takes place, it does so in compliance with maritime safety regulations.
"Perhaps the maritime legislation will have to be reviewed to include traditional sea vessels. However, safety is the paramount issue."
His comments come as the church prepares to host its annual conference this weekend.
The annual Veitau Waqa, organised by the Pacific Blue Foundation, is one that will see canoes of traditional iTaukei design race against each other along the Suva foreshore.
Ten camakau, a smaller version of the two-hulled ocean-going drua, will be the main feature of the race on Friday in the Suva Harbour. Forty-five children will feature their bakanawa, mode-sized canoes, as part of the event, which starts with a march from the Suva Flea Market through the city. Race organiser Roko Sau Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba said their main aim was to help revive traditional sailing skills among the young.