2 Nov 2007

Fiji interim cabinet changes some land lease regulations

11:17 am on 2 November 2007

Fiji's interim cabinet has endorsed changes to some laws covering the leasing of indigenous land in isolated, unplanned or unsurveyed areas outside settled areas.

The changes mean that leases on such land can now be issued for 90 years instead of the previous 50 years.

Land lease laws are entrenched legislation under Fiji's constitution and very difficult to change unless approved by large majorities in both houses of parliament, including senators appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs.

But the interim minister for Fijian affairs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, says the current changes in regulations were made in accordance with a section of the Native Land Trust Act which requires cabinet approval only.

Ratu Epeli says leasing any land regardless of the lease period would still require consultation and the consensus of its indigenous owners.

He says long term leases will allow continuity of rental income for landowners who will benefit from receiving market rentals from industries such as poultry, dairy farming, forestry and commercial agriculture.

Expiring sugar cane leases, which have led to a 35% fall in cane production, are not covered by the new changes.