Sunday, October 19, 2014

A few complaints about Labasa town

from w
In today's Fiji Times (Monday) the writer lists several problems with Labasa and what needs to be done.

'Changes' for Labasa

Pardeep Lal
Monday, October 20, 2014
LABASA Town is the main town on the island of Vanua Levu and is situated at the estuary of the Labasa River. It serves people of three provinces (Bua, Macuata and Cakaudrove). The town has great potential to become an economically much vibrant town. Being a town that has experienced peripheral sub -urban growth in the last decade, activities have since then increased in the town.
Peak days are usually busy and the following problems are encountered by urban commuters and public.
* Lack of parking space. The number of vehicles in Labasa has significantly increased but parking space has remained the same! It is impossible to find parking space in town. Supermarket parking spaces are also limited.
* Busy supermarkets. Most supermarkets have few check-out counters and long lines are common. Loud music is a nuisance in some supermarkets. The concept of shopping in a quiet environment is not experienced by shoppers in supermarkets in Labasa. Supermarkets need to improve on their service delivery by setting up more check-out counters. They need to have express counters as well.
* Unavailability of bus service after 5pm. Most bus services cease around 5pm. If bus services are available until 8pm and supermarkets and businesses are open for extended hours, it will have many benefits. More growth opportunities will be created and business will flourish in the North. It will also reduce overcrowding of supermarkets and reduce parking problems in town during the day.
* Overcrowded bus stand. It is a risk to people who cross between busses to reach the market or town. The development of the market area looks promising, however, the town must consider an alternative location for the bus stand as a matter of priority. The pollution from busses is a huge health risk while congestion is unbearable. Commuters need a safer bus stand area.
* Crossing lights and crossing locations. The non-functioning of the only crossing light in the main street further causes traffic jams. People need to be educated on rules for crossing. Pedestrians have been seen jumping onto the road at zebra crossings without any due regard to traffic. Many people do not understand zebra crossings mean you may cross only when the road is clear. The police and the Land Transport Authority must mount education programs on this aspect for the general safety of pedestrians.
* Moreover, the back road is under-utilised except during peak hours. Town must improve the back road and direct all heavy traffic (trucks, tractors, cane lorries etc.) through it to avoid congestion on the main street.
Urban population growth for Labasa is a key indicator that justifies the call for improvement of urban services. Bureau of Statistics figures show the combined urban population in the North was 19,409 in 1986. This figure leaped to 30,051 within 10 years (1996) which is a 55 per cent increase.
A large number of people from rural areas have shifted to peri-urban areas. The demand thus is on improved roads, reliable water and transport service, better housing and greener environment.
With Government's plan to develop the North further, mechanisms need to be put in place to sustain growth. Labasa must not go through the same problems and obstacles (squatter settlements, pollution, congestion, urban unemployment, overcrowding, urban flooding etc) other cities and towns (including Suva) have gone through.
Labasa Town must also work on extending its boundary. This will have long-term benefits for the town and its people. It must not be left to operate in its existing town boundary forever. Growth in the peripheral areas is indicating the town must grow outward. Many urban centres have been successful in solving urban problems such as overcrowding, congestion etc. by decentralisation of services.
Urban problems are associated with urban growth. While such problems indicate growth, the sensible approach will be to ensure sound urban planning which can only come about through better understanding of urban geomorphology.
* Pardeep Lal is a lecturer in ethics and governance at the Fiji National University's School of Social Sciences at its Labasa campus. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper. He can be contacted on

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pacific Islanders in protest at Newcastle

from w
I hadn't seen this story in any papers I read but a friend alerted me to the story and it's in the Guardian. There are Fijians included in the protest.

Pacific Islanders blockade Newcastle coal port to protest rising sea levels

Pacific Climate Warriors’ group aims to draw attention to climate change and protest Australia’s commitment to coal
Pacific protest
Protestors from 12 Pacific Island nations in traditional vessels join activists in an attempt to block vessels from leaving the coal port of Newcastle on Friday. Police try to clear a path through the protestors for the Rhine from Cypress. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
A group of Pacific Islanders joined an environmental protest blockading the Newcastle coal port on Friday, disrupting shipping traffic by paddling canoes across the harbour mouth.
Members of the Pacific Climate Warriors action group traveled from nations including the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tokelau, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to draw attention to the effects of climate change on their island nations, and to protest Australia’s continuing commitment to coal.
The Newcastle port is the world’s largest coal handling facility. An annual flotilla blockade has been held for several years, but this was the first time protesters were joined by the group from the Pacific Islands.
Fijian protester George Nacewa had earlier told Guardian Australia the effects of climate change were “really evident back at home with coastal erosion and in terms of sea-level rise”.
“To date there has been the relocation of two villages, they’ve moved further inland,” he said. “That’s Fiji alone, and the other Pacific islands are more affected because most of them are just atolls.”
“We lose our cultural identity and we lose our land, because we identify ourselves with the land and the ocean,” he said.
On Friday morning the 30 men and women were joined by a few hundred others on Horseshoe beach at Newcastle, as well as a police presence on land and water.
After a procession of several canoes shipped from Vanuatu, Fiji and other islands, and a Polynesian war dance, the traditional vessels took to the water. There were laughs and cheers from the crowd and police when two men tipped and then sank their canoe almost immediately. Then the leader of an outrigger canoe with “Tai Tokelau” painted on the side, shouted for others to “bring the kayaks” and dozens went in on their plastic watercraft.
“If we get to stop a coal ship, then all the better,” Nacewa told Guardian Australia after returning to shore. “But at the end of the day we are here to highlight the impact of climate change. All these islanders in their costumes – they live the realities of climate change.”
MilaƱ Loeak, from the Marshall Islands told Guardian Australia the climate warriors were joining the protest to tell people their stories in the hope more would join them in their fight.
“Just last week we had a king tide that affected some homes in the villages,” said the 26-year-old, adding that droughts and floodings were frequent.
Tiny coral atolls, the Marshall Islands are “especially” vulnerable to sea level rises, she said. “It’s something very personal to me, especially seeing it first hand and seeing family members and relatives and friends and their families have to leave their homes and find new places to stay.”
Kayakers were not permitted to go beyond yellow markers just a short distance offshore, but almost immediately a large number paddled past them into the middle of the waterway.
Within half an hour, the bulk carrier, Rhine, appeared, being pulled out of the port by tugs. Protesters quickly formed a blockade, hampered on one side by police boats. Police officers used boats to push the light watercraft back, and took jetskis around canoes to create wake and spray. The 225-metre vessel was delayed for a short time until police cleared the way.
One 47-year-old kayaker, Donna Bartlett, claimed a police officer on a jetski made contact with her bright orange kayak, knocking it against another and dislocating her finger. She said jetskis on either side of a group were sending protesters in opposite directions, causing chaos.
“The jetskis come, trying to get us unbalanced,” she said. “I’m scared today but I know the stakes.”
Zana Kobayashi, 25, from Newcastle, said she’d joined the protest because the federal government “doesn’t seem to be doing anything to address concerns [about climate change].”
Kobayashi, who was in a double kayak, said police on the water confiscated their paddles and towed them out of the way of the ship. When protesters began returning to shore, another officer towed them in. She said there were “a few aggressive characters” among the police officers.
Inspector Steve Laksa told Guardian Australia several people were detained and brought to shore, but none were facing charges. In going past the yellow markers, protesters “put other persons at risk and in danger”, Laksa said.
He was unaware of reports about police jetskis hitting Bartlett’s kayak, but said: “Police were on the waterway to ensure the safety of the protesters and persons on the waterway illegally, and were asking them and giving certain directions to move back to shore.
“The information I’ve been provided and what I’ve seen for myself is that the police have given directions to the protesters and set a line to the yellow markers.
“We were concerned there were a number of protesters with children that were entering into the waterway, in the path of a large ship. We had some serious concerns and had given directions for them to move back.”
And here are some other pictures:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fifty years and more since Ordination

from w
Today we had a gathering of about eighteen ministers and some partners at Belmont Uniting Church to remember ordination forty or fifty years ago.  Peceli was the fifty year minister, yet not the oldest there. It was an opportunity to meet with people we've known over the years - though we only knew less than half of them, to reflect on the journey so far, have a delicious meal together.  Peceli wrote up some notes and gave out to some of the men and women there.  This is what he wrote:

Fifty years since Ordination  1964 to 2014

Thank you for the invitation today to share with others who were ordained forty or fifty years ago. A question I ask is why I have survived when most of my colleagues have passed away.  I am 78 which is regarded as elderly in Fiji.  When we look back to the years since our Ordination we give thanks to God for the opportunities, and I am grateful for the experiences in Fiji and also in Australia and for my wife Wendy and family.

I started very young in the ministry going to a Bible School when I was sixteen and I turned 21 while I was in the theological college in Davuilevu Fiji.  The old system then in the Methodist church was to have three years study and three years practical work before ordination.  The Principal at that time was Rev Tippett and another teacher was Rev Cyril Germon. 

A few things I learnt early in life – was that once you have been ordained you are marked for life.   Also it was a time of following a leader, people who become a mentor to us. Like Rev Setareki Tuilovoni, Rev Setareki Rika.  They noticed that I knew the Fiji Hindi language so that I would be able to work amongst the Fiji Indian community at some stage.  I worked in a mountain village in Navosa then was sent to the Indian Division to Lautoka.   My induction was not in a church but out of doors at the main Lautoka football ground to a mix of all kinds of people. Wendy and I married about that time.  After working in other places our family moved to Australia and we were in Hopetoun  when the Uniting Church was formed.  It was unusual then to have Pacific Island ministers in Victoria. In the Mallee I learnt more about the Australian way of life and I took up golf which was a great way of meeting  the men who were not always in the Sunday church and then they started coming to worship possibly to talk to me about my wins at golf.

I  am grateful for the time I spent with Aboriginal people in the Mallee  and was at that time involved in meeting with in Swan Hill, Robinvale and Mildura and the Berriwillock wheat scheme funded some of my travelling. One thing is about the stump jump plough.  Some people are rather tough like mallee roots  left in a field. Instead of crashing into them, the stump jump plough gently rides over them.  I think this is how we can manage our lives so that we don’t get offended and hurt by those who reject the Christian faith.

In Geelong East our family developed – the boys at Geelong High School, their footie, their tennis and Deakin for George. Wendy was on-campus at Deakin and I was closer to Melbourne to visit the Fijian congregation at that time in Richmond. At the Ormond Rd church the congregation were brave to have me as  minister for nine years.  My preaching was never brilliant but I did my best. One woman often commented positively. One day I asked her – ‘Hey Doreen, how did  it go today?’  She answered, ‘Fine of course, but actually I didn’t bring my hearing aids today.’  The good relationship with some of our Geelong East and St Andrews members has continued until today. 

Retirement  is not letting go for a minister. We wanted to remain in Geelong so bought a house at 13 Boundary Rd. I found volunteer tasks to do such as Donation in Kind, some study at Monash, some locum ministry connecting with churches, and playing golf.  These days I’ve slowed down due to health matters but still go most Sundays to Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church to support a small Fijian group there. In Geelong we have a strong Fijian network with many young couples. We call our group the Fiji Geelong Friendship Club.  Last week we celebrated Fiji Day for about 30 people in our back yard with traditional food such as cooked in an underground oven. And at present we have a household of twelve at weekends, so retirement is not dull.  Wendy and I thank God for the  long journey.

Peceli Soqovata Ratawa

October 2014.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fiji fusion music

from w
An article in today's Fiji Times about an attempt to create fusion music in Fiiji - that is using both lali (Fjian) and tabla and harmonium (Indian) was in a presentation in Nadi. The writer said this is quite new. Actually it's been done before several times including a concert many years ago at Grammar School in Suva when a boy played the lali as a girl danced in the traditonal Indian way. I have it on tape. Beautiful as they gradually adapted the rhythm and hand movements to the beats.  Good luck to the teachers at the Namaka campus for their music program.
Here's today's story.

Music integration

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, October 16, 2014
IN what could only be described as rhythmically impossible — students and tutors from the Fiji National University dared to defy the musical norm by fusing traditional Hindi and iTaukei instruments in an attempt to create a new genre of music.
The music fusion concert was part of the inaugural International Food Festival which continues this week at the Namaka campus.
Renowned Indian classical singer Dr Soma Ghosh dazzled the audience with her command of the iTaukei language by singing a song composed by local faculty members.
Dr Ghosh — protege of legendary Indian musician the late Bismillah Khan — is working with FNU's music school to create a new sound by combining Indian instruments such as the tabla and harmonium with iTaukei instruments such as the lali.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Labasa bus stand

from Fiji Village today:
Upgrading of Labasa bus stand to start next week
Saturday, 11/10/2014
The Labasa bus stand
The people of Labasa are looking forward to a much improved bus stand in the coming months as construction starts on upgrading the existing site next week.
Fiji Roads Authority Maintenance Works Manager Dale Nicholls said the existing bus stand has an unsealed surface that is very hard to maintain.
Nicholls said the existing layout also has poor management of the buses going in and out, stopping areas and overall pedestrian safety, factors that were taken into consideration with the design of the new bus stand.
While the construction work is taking place, buses will operate out of a temporary bus station situated further along Jaduram Street.
Nicholls said the Labasa Town Council has requested that FRA look at resurfacing the existing bus stand area and also asked to look at the safety and operation of the area particularly for pedestrians.
The new layout of the bus stand will also provide channeling for buses so that they line up in an orderly fashion with a separated pedestrian area to improve pedestrian safety.
Story by Elizabeth Rokosuka

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Imported ginger from Fiji suspect

from w
I've been watching ABC landline TV today and they ran a story about ginger imported from Fiji. The Australian farmers are not happy about it and apparently the worry is not just the competition but the find of some diseases in the imported project such as a round worm that burrows inside the ginger.
Here's an article about it:

Criticism continues over roundworm and nematode risks from Fijian ginger imports

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The Federal Government continues to face criticism over its handling of ginger imports from Fiji.
Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said roundworms recently found in imports weren't killed by the required fumigation because they were too deep in the ginger, and not of quarantine concern anyway.
But he said the more destructive burrowing nematode could be targeted because it was found closer to the skin.
However, ginger growers and an independent roundworm scientist disagree.
They say the burrowing nematode digs deep too, contrary to what Mr Joyce has said.
This would suggest the methyl bromide spray might not kill it either.
The deputy secretary of biosecurity Rona Mellor won't say whether or not Mr Joyce got it wrong, instead stating she is confident the fumigation will treat the burrowing nematode if it digs into the rhizome.
"The rate and the time (of methyl bromide treatment) that's been chosen is designed specifically for that (burrowing nematode) pest," she said.
"We haven't even considered root knot nematode because it's not a pest of concern."
Ms Mellor denies the root knot roundworm's survival suggests the burrowing nematode could also withstand the fumigation.
In addition, she says another requirement is to remove the roots of the ginger imports because the burrowing nematode mostly lives in the root system.

Banana industry calls for Fijian ginger ban

Banana industry calls for ban on ginger imports from Fiji

The industry says the Fijian strain of the burrowing nematode is more aggressive than the one present in Australia.
But independent nematologist Dr Graham Stirling, from Biological Crop Protection in Brisbane, challenges the measures.
He says both nematodes in question are closely related and therefore are likely to have a similar reaction to the fumigation.
In fact, he says, burrowing nematodes could be harder to kill.
"Because with root knot nematodes, there's often cracks and crevices... where the (fumigation) could actually penetrate. That's less likely to happen with a lower infestation of burrowing nematode."
Dr Stirling adds that removing the roots from ginger imports isn't enough.
"These people obviously don't know anything about the nematode they're dealing with... thousands and thousands of nematodes can occur in the rhizome."
Ms Mellor says Dr Stirling's comments are yet another opinion in the matter.
"I'm sure he's got a view. Many scientists do and that's one of the issues we're dealing with here, that there are always different views in science."
Dr Stirling says much more research needs to be done to first establish whether the burrowing nematode in Fiji is different to a strain that already exists in parts of Australia.
Mr Joyce says his department will do independent testing of more ginger imports, while a review into the way Australia manages its import risk continues.
Earlier this year, a Senate Committee report criticised the effectiveness of methyl bromide in killing the burrowing nematode.
First posted 2 Oct 2014, 2:07pm

Friday, October 10, 2014

Letter in praise of Labasa

from w
Here's a letter from Saturday's Fiji times in praise of Labasa.  Some reckon it looks like a Wild West town with its long main street, and then the traffic with sugar trucks going by and people ambling across the road, but one writer thinks it's a great place to be.
Friendly town
I AM so proud of the new development going on here in Labasa.
Despite the ruthless dry spell which turns everything brownish, dusty and withering even to the skin and hairs, Labasa is blooming.
I recently noticed a taxi stand for one taxi only and a two-taxi zone with five to seven taxis squeezed in, Labasa style.
The stench from the Qawa River, I was told by one of my friends from the Labasa mill that once I get used to it then problem solved.
Just recently hair salon, new eateries, new hotels and of course a new bank is some of the added development here in the friendly town.
Then we have our own Vava Ni Ose (Horse Shoe) version of McDonald's, the friendly atmosphere grog stall beside the Labasa River which can match the relaxing Grand Pacific Hotel and, of course, the unmatched stall of fish parcels and fish with miti or lolo or combination of both near the Civic Centre building.
Labasa also has friendly cops who politely warn taxidrivers of making U-turns in the main street with tickets accompanied by a huge smile.
We are now looking forward to our new FNU and Damodar City complex to be built where the once historical Long Bay complex was.
By the way, if anyone requests you to go and relax under the bridge, please, don't bring your swimsuit and fishing line with you as that merely means the grog shed beside the bridge.

Fiji Day in Geelong and making a lovo

from w
Yesterday October 10th was Fiji Day and we celebrated by making a lovo for friends and members of the Fiji Geelong Friendhsip Club. The boys and young people did all the work of digging up the lovo pit, preparing the food and cooking the lovo. Vina'a va'alevu to Eperama and his team of helpers.  It was a balmy evening and with daylight saving there was sunlight for a long time, then we lit up the garden with lights. The pork, lamb, dalo, chicken was beautifully cooked and friends brought salads etc. It was a lovely evening for about thirty people. The evening also marked two more events - happy 20th birthday to Naya, and also a memorial burua for Bale's father who was buried a week ago in Suva.