‘Plea falls on deaf ears’

Disgruntled landowners in Vanuavou, Cakaudrove wait for TLTB officials during a meeting regarding the lease issue. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Disgruntled landowners in Vanuavou, Cakaudrove wait for TLTB officials during a meeting regarding the lease issue. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

DISAPPOINTED members of the Vanuavou landowning unit in Vaturova, Cakaudrove claim their plea for the security of their land has fallen on deaf ears.

Speaking to iTaukei Land Trust Board officials during a consultation on Tuesday evening, the mataqali’s trustee Vilise Semesa told TLTB the previous lessee had not paid lease premiums and was not a member of the mataqali.

Mr Semesa said TLTB officials failed to do their groundwork on the leaseholder and establish for themselves that he was not a member of the landowning unit.

“Despite police writing to the board to withhold the transfer of lease due to the fact that the lessee had been felling trees out of his lease boundary for commercial purposes the board went forward and transferred the lease,” he said.

“Not only that even the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests had issued a notice confirming that the lessee had been felling trees without a proper licence.

“As the trustee of landowners’ interests in the country we have lost faith in the board because you betrayed our trust and went on with the lease transfer.”

Mr Semesa said landowners would look at options to pursue the matter in court.

“It is an understanding between the mataqali and the lessees that their leases will be seized once they commit any wrong during their lease period,” he said.

“The lessee had felled trees out of his lease boundaries without proper licence and he had breached our understanding which is why we had wanted his lease cancelled.”

Responding to these statements, TLTB representative at the consultation Mosese Maravou said the lessee had leased the iTaukei land through proper lease process meaning consultation was undertaken.

Mr Maravou said the subject land was outside reserve and therefore majority landowners’ consent wasn’t needed.

“The tenant had applied for his tree felling licence which TLTB consented and licence was issued by forestry and the licences are issued to tenants who hold an agricultural lease,” he said.

“Transfer consented was approved by TLTB based on the utilisation of land and no payment in arrears for land rent.”

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