27 Nov 2003

Fiji PM says Native Lands Trust Act is key to land lease problems

10:23 am on 27 November 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the solution to the land problem is fifty year leases under the Native LandsTrust Act.

Mr Qarase says this has been promoted by the Native Lands Trust Board, backed by the Great Council of Chiefs and the government.

He says indigenous landowners believe that the current legislation known as the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act is a constitutional breach of their rights.

The prime minister says 50 year leases under the Native Lands Trust Act would have provision for a review after 25 years to determine whether landowners would renew them on expiry.

He says this would give tenant farmers 25 years to make alternative arrangements if their leases are not renewed and largely solve the uncertainties they faced.

Mr Qarase says as an interim solution, the Native Lands Trust Board is renewing some leases under the current legislation where the landowners agree, pending the transfer of all leases to the Native Lands Trust Act

He says the Native Lands Trust Act has been there since the inception of the NLTB over 60 years ago and two-thirds of all leases already issued are covered by it.