Friday, September 01, 2006

Landscape is more than Real Estate

Landscape is more than real estate
Even professors of economics with hundreds of academic papers under their belts can get it wrong if they focus on financial aspects of land. Landscape is more than potential real estate for money-making.

In today’s Age newspaper, Hamish McDonald writes 'Land fever hits Pacific paradise', as locals lose out as developers gobble up Vanuatu. An awful story of greed, manipulation, and the indigenous people losing out. This is fair warning to Fiji indeed, and thank heavens that the Native Land Trust Board has over the past sixty years had some kind of way of moderating such greedy takeovers.

Land fever hits Pacific paradise
Hamish McDonald, Port Vila
September 2, 2006

NATIVES spoiling the views and privacy of your dream beachfront villa in Vanuatu by gathering on the shore and launching their canoes?

One expat real estate agent here had the answer for a potential buyer: keep a couple of big dogs and a shotgun, and make sure the locals believe you would use them.

Pacific historian Claire Slatter recounts this vignette in a study for Oxfam New Zealand on Vanuatu's tourism and real estate boom, pointing to a looming crisis in what has been the most peaceful segment of the Melanesian "arc of instability".
In years to come, will John Howard's new army battalions, being raised to help with Pacific contingencies, be used to rescue Australian sea-changers from gated beachfront estates under siege by landless, jobless islanders?

For several years, Vanuatu, which gained independence from joint British-French rule in 1980 and has 205,000 people, has been gripped by land fever.

Developers, who include some convicted con-men from Australia, rushed an opportunity created when the Government went through a budget crisis in the mid-1990s, and adopted neo-liberal policies to unlock land, held in complex traditional ownership. But the rush has created an explosive social problem in a Melanesian region where land is identity, source of food, and social security for a population mostly outside the formal economy.

Russell Nari, Vanuatu's director-general of lands, says almost 90 per cent of land on the main island of Efate has already been leased out, and large tracts of the big northern island, Esperitu Santo, are following.

Go to Age website for more of the article by Hamish McDonald.


laminar_flow said...

Is this your ancestral land, up for grabs?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

We are familiar with this website and presume that all of this is being done in consultation with the landowners.
Is one of the sites your family land?

Pandabonium said...

Hawaii real estate (and other US property) was snapped up by Japanese investors in the 1980's. They got badly burned when their economic bubble burst and they all tried to sell in 1991.

One of the things Fiji does which discourages land speculation is to tax any profit from the sale of unimproved land at the rate of 33%. I think it's a good policy.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Don't know much about economics but it's interesting to compare the blurb (on the web) put out by the Fiji land institution, the NLTB, about Vorovoro as a potential site for a resort, and what eventuated when the Mali people decided eco-tourism would be a better way. The institution anyway is working with the tribewanted group and Mali chief/people in the project, so it is wrong to assume that the NLTB overpowers landowners with suggestions.

laminar_flow said...

Those beach front properties(on NLTB's website) is not part of our yavusa.
However, it belongs to some land owning unit, who may not know the details of the land deals or the real value of their communual property.

News reports on NLTB using forged signatures of landowners, actually disputes Babasiga's rosy picture of the NLTB.

Sitiveni Rabuka's column in the Fiji Times also suggest an alternative.
U.S.P academic is also echoing my sentiments on landowner's ability to negotiate terms for themselves.
I understand the need for regulator but not a regulator/negotiator and trustee rolled into one.
Division of powers, is something Commonwealth nations may not have a good understanding of.

It actually mirrors Wendy's suggestion of Australia being a full republic.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

to Pandabonium and Laminar,
I took a taxi from 6 mile to Valelevu. A fijian driver. He knew that I was from Australia so he took a long tour right around Valelevu and said he could not find the house. Then a person who I asked who was standing on the street recognised the driver who actually lived close to the place and knew it well. He robbed me double or even triple time.
Is this fair to his old brother?
My point is we sometimes can't win. We get cheated.
The truth about our Fiji institutions is probably halfway between being robbed and being rosy!

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