Deja vu - as I read a story in today's Fiji news about a container of gifts being sent to Suva and there's a problem at the wharf. This is the story and my comments after:
NZ Fijians need urgent State help
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Update: 4.02pm A CONTAINER of clothes and furniture donated by the Fijian community in Auckland will be auctioned off at the end of the month if the storage fees accumulated in the past three months is not paid up. The container of donated secondhand items was sent for the Central Christian Centre at Davuilevu and the CWM Hospital but was not released because the recipients were told to pay $4000 in duty.
Included in the container are medical equipment and supplies for the hospital, sent in August this year.
A concerned former Fiji citizen now living in Auckland, Janette Hennings said the Fijian community had contributed the items including $2800 for freight.
She said both the CWM Hospital and the Central Christian Centre were told to pay $4000 if they wanted the container released. Ms Hennings said the storage fee has been increasing since August and the relevant authorities are threatening to auction off the items to recover the storage fees.
In September this year, Fiji Times Online had queried with the interim Prime Minister's Permanent Secretary, Pramesh Chand about the matter and a letter from the Fijian community to Commander Voreqe Bainimarama. Mr Chand acknowedged a letter had been received but said the relevant authority to deal with the issue was the Finance Ministry. The New Zealanders claim they have not received a reply from Commander Bainimarama. In the meantime, the Fijian community in Auckland are reluctant to send any more donations.
Okay, that's their experience and let me tell you, lots of stories abound about problems when kind-hearted people in places such as New Zealand and Australia send a container of donated goods to places like Fiji. The wharf fee in Suva or Lautoka has to be paid, if the container stays more than about five days then a huge fee accummulates in storeage. There may be (though there shouldn't be) customs duty. One of the containers we sent was put into storeage when the recipient (a volunteer mind you) wasn't notified quickly. Then there's the risk of theft. Then there may be more charges to transport the gifts to Vanua Levu or elsewhere which can be as high as the cost of sending a container from a city in Australia to Suva! Join the club, kiwis, and think twice about sending gifts to Fiji. Of course it can be worse - in Sri Lanka one time they didn't even want donated second-hand goods - they only wanted brand new stuff and the container just was left on the wharf forever!
Our Donation in Kind has just sent another container to Lautoka so - I'm crossng my fingers that it will get through okay. A friend in Melbourne is sending a container to Suva with gifts to go on to Lakeba and we gave him wheelchairs etc. so I hope that gets through okay too. Maybe there needs to be clear guidelines set by the Fiji end as to the regulations about sending gifts to Fiji.