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Living the dream

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, September 10, 2017

About half a century ago, villagers of Vatuolalai had to rely on copra and the marine resource as their main source of income.

The construction of The Naviti Resort changed their way of life.

These changes included both the positive and negative impacts on the community as a whole.

In the past two weeks, we have highlighted the economic and social impacts, and how the resort directly and indirectly made an impact on the environment and change in social behaviour.

In this week's Discovering Fiji column, we will highlight the economic benefits in the hope it will shed some light for other landowners around the country, who are willing to lease their land for development.

The agreement signed between the landowners and the resort has seen a win-win situation.

It is rather unfortunate that in Fiji there are cases where certain individuals selfishly push for their own personal agenda not thinking of the majority simply because of greed.

This agreement should be a wake-up call and set the benchmark for landowners whose lands are undeveloped.

"Under our agreement if any of our homes is experiencing water problems or something wrong with our water system, the resort will send its plumbers to come and work on it and we do not pay anything," said Apakuki Tasere, the village headman.

"Since the establishment of the resort, they have helped us in a lot of our village development projects the construction of the hall amounted to more than $540,000, the village church cost more than $740,000 and the resort helped us with this.

"An education fund that funds our children's education and as a result, we have pilots, doctors, teachers and lawyers in this village."

The resort was also open to new ideas such as employment opportunity and venturing into business.

"We have here a tokatoka whose elders did not receive any form of education, yet they now run businesses.

"We have those who used to work at the hotels, acquire the knowledge and set of skills needed, resigned and are now running their own operators. Like for me, I now run a small business just beside the resort. I have a cross-country, round the island, waterfall tour and Sigatoka Town trip.

"Every business here in the village is both directly and indirectly tourism oriented," added Mr Tasere.

In 1988, Warwick Hotels and Resorts acquired The Naviti Resort and Tammie Tam, the senior vice-president/executive director Pacific, said they had contributed a lot to the development of the village.

1. Construction of the sea wall to protect the village foreshore by providing the required material and the Fiji military services provided the labour.

2. Financial assistance of more than $1 million in the form of an interest-free-loan for the construction of:

a) Village community hall;

b) New houses for the village chiefs and elders;

c) Village electrifying project with street lights and security lights throughout the village;

d) Drainage system; and

e) Village church building.

3. Scholarship in the sum of $7000 per year for the first 20 years increasing to $10,000 per year after 20 years and continuing.

4. Flesh and treated water supply to the whole village.

5. Financial assistance for funerals, weddings and functions.

6. Assistance for funerals, weddings and functions by way of lending the marquee, banquet chairs and tables, catering equipment and utensils.

7. Collection of village rubbish and transport to Sigatoka dump site.

8. Assistance for village kindergarten.

9. Assistance in maintenance of the village ground by providing the brush-cutters and fuel on a monthly basis.

10. Assistance in maintenance for leaking taps and pipes and other household maintenance work.

11. Carrying out medical advice program with local and overseas doctors to villagers.

12. The Naviti Resort has been the main source of employment for Votuolalai and the immediate community.

Apart from the village projects Ms Tam added they have other commitments to along the coral coast of the Nadroga/Navosa Province.

Their priorities lie in the community's health and safety, employment and income security, children's education, youth's careers, sports and recreation initiatives and environment programs.

They have been successful in some amazing refocused initiatives and efforts in the following:

1. Main support for all villages in the tikina Korolevuiwai in all areas and assistance is given through a formal request system in place from the village elders and leaders to Naviti Resort.

2. Assistance to the Sigatoka hospital, Coral Coast Tourism Police, Sigatoka Fire Station through community-based projects for the past 15 years.

3. Repair and paint the Korolevu Police Post.

4. The Korolevu Health Centre receives immediate support and assistance from the Warwick Fiji and the Naviti Resort. The immediate support for the health centre for maintenance issues, acquisition of essential medical equipment and infrastructural works on the buildings, doctors and nurses residence.

5. Support for local doctor, Dr Elizabeth Dass, on her role in being the main immediate health/medical assistance for the community and to ensure her health services extends beyond the health centre, to the immediate community (11 villages/26 settlements).

6. Assist with transfer assistance for the doctor's and nurses weekly village outreach clinics and village health inspections (rai koro) and training of our village health workers for the past two years.

7. Construction of bus shelter and extension of the Korolevu Health Centre and the doctor and nurse staff quarters.

8. Assistance given to 21 registered disabled individuals in the community of mobility facilities (wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches with other care amenities).

9. We assist the doctor with her health promotional community programs the latest will be held at Votua Village on September 15, 2017, World Suicide Prevention Day — target audience of about 400 people.

10. Partnership with overseas health experts to run health programs in the region on two weeks sponsored stays at The Naviti Resort from 2014, 2015, 2016 and rehabilitation assistance on eye care, disabilities, lifestyle health advice.

11. Assist in the construction of school fence, toilets, drainage system and repair work of classroom buildings of the Tagaqe Primary School.

12. Assist in the construction of school hall and repair work of the classroom buildings of St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu.

13. Assist St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu with purchasing new desks, chairs and blackboards for three classrooms, February 2017.

14. Assist St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu with the renovations, refurbishing of their toilet blocks — August 2017.

15. Plans are in progress to assist St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu, with new roofing to their main building during this 2017 Christmas holiday.

16. Uniform sponsorship for the Nadroga Primary School netball uniform — August 2017.

17. Plans in the pipeline for Tagaqe Primary School new toilet block construction.

18. Sponsored the Warwick Careers Expo, held at Warwick for 120 unemployed youths in January 2017 — resultant outcome 80 plus unemployed youths back to school and technical schools from Jan to July. Involved all major tertiary, Ministry of Youths and Sports, Provincial Council and officiated by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

19. Education scholarships were awarded to five unemployed youths from nearby villages to pursue their technical expertise at FNU and USP after the Warwick Career Expo, youths were hand-picked by village leaders.

20. Major sponsors of the Navosa Rugby Team, B Division winners for 2016/2017, resort has given the Naviti Resort grounds as the home ground for the Navosa Baravi Rugby clubs.

21. Assist the Navosa Baravi Rugby clubs weekly competition provision of marquee, sound system chairs and tables, from May to August 2016/2017 - involves 15 villages.

22. Major sponsor of the Navosa Netball Club May to August 2017, provision of balls, uniforms, nets — involves 15 villages.

23. In the past three years has provided a rubbish pick up service for 11 villages along the Queens Rd from Naboutini to Namada Village, pick up is twice a month for all throughout the year and disposed of at the Sigatoka Town Council main rubbish landfill, from 2015, 2016, 2017, a monthly $2000 plus assistance.

24. WHR Coral Coast properties, has quarterly roadside clean up that has been in place for the past three years and all three participating WHR resorts clean the main road stretch from Beach house to Tambua Sands.

25. Collaboration with NGOs and Ministry of Agriculture for women agri-business ventures and farming initiatives.

With their heavy reliance on tourism, Mr Tasere said the villagers were looking at resilience programs to help sustain them should the tourism industry be affected.

"I always say should there be a bomb explosion at the Nadi International Airport, the first village to be affected will be us because of our reliance on the tourism industry, precisely the resort.

"That is why we have brought in the Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders to help us in our resilience programs.

"Through working with the Ministry of Agriculture, we also encourage other youths to go back to their land and develop their farming skills.

"Proclaiming their ownership of the land and produce agricultural products that will be required in the resorts and at the same time provide good income for their families," added Ms Tam.

If Vatuolalai and The Naviti Resort can enjoy a happy and healthy relationship, I strongly believe investors and landowners can look at this as an example to ensuring everyone has a piece of the cake.

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