Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ALTA on way out

from w
In the Fiji Times there's a story about ALTA - the land leasing system that has been such a problem. So what difference will a 99 year lease make? Our great-grand-children won't have access to land if they want to be farmers? I remember that in 1970 when ALTA was being brought in, there were street marches and protests about it but no-one listened to protesters then. Some thought that 30 years was too long.

ALTA is out
Ifereimi Nadore
Thursday, January 14, 2010

THE Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA) will be revoked under the new Land Reform program. And all leases under native land will now come under the legal framework of the Native Land Trust Act. This means that farmers can soon expect to be able to lease native land for 99 year terms, as opposed to the 30 years that they were restricted to under ALTA.

Native Land Trust Board general manager Alipate Qetaki yesterday confirmed these details and said the board felt the revocation of ALTA should benefit landowners who over the years were denied a fair share of returns from the use of their land.

Mr Qetaki said the change would not only benefit landowners but also tenants and other stakeholders as well.

He confirmed that now that ALTA would be revoked, all agricultural leases would have their tenure extended from 30 to 99 years.

"The challenge is to work out appropriate terms and conditions for the lease itself. And having done this the interest of the landowners would be taken into account," Mr Qetaki said.

He said the new changes would have to go hand in hand with today's economic climate.

"This means that we have to build in certain conditions such as the periodic review of the rent likewise the periodic assessment of land," Mr Qetaki said.

This, he said, would also require a swifter and stronger enforcement regime.

"We don't like to see people taking advantage of the landowners," he said.

"We have to consider the reform with its current context. The main issue is to have accessibility to land but you have to pay the price," said Mr Qetaki.

He reiterated that the ownership of the native land would not change. "We have to find ways for how the landowners can best utilise their land and we will have all the necessary framework to facilitate that. Best use not only for the landowners, but for the tenants and whole country, he said.

He said the NLTB would like to empower the landowners to lease their own land for commercial farming, housing, and hotel business. He said the board would work closely with the Fijian Affairs Board by advising the landowners to become involved in entrepreneurship. "We would like to see the landowners properly invest their trust funds from land for future needs in education, development and other community service," said Mr Qetaki.


Andrew Thornley said...

I hope that a good amount of land becomes available under this much more generous scheme.
On the Methodist Church front, it has been reported that the Annual Conference has been banned until 2014! The reason given by Bainimarama is that the Church can gather its money in other ways just as efficiently. Does not the good Commodore understand that the Conference serves many purposes other than financial? Surely this is all going too far?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Andrew,
I have two different views about land leasing. First of all Peceli's family land was tied up for years and years - they only had 13 acres out of 2000 for many years, but did get some land back in the 70s after much hard work at land courts by Peceli, so my opinion is that we do have to keep some parcels of land for the grand-children etc. However there is so much land in Fiji under-utilized - even when you drive from Suva to Navua you see the jungle. So it's sensible to make possible the leasing of land for long periods of time. But is financial compensation better than access to your own land? Of course intact forests are good too!
Now the other topic - it's very sensitive of course and these days I don't want to be on any 'lists' so I shut up, but I am shocked at some remarks/decisions made.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

from w
Re. ALTA going, it's apparently not a done deal - the media sometimes seems to report plans as done deals. I saw this piece in Fiji Exiles Board but where it came from is not cited.

ALTA remains in place
Publish date/time: 14/01/2010 [16:52]

The Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act or ALTA remains in place and can only be removed by decree by the government.

Native Lands Trust Board General Manager Alipate Qetaki said though the NLTB has made submissions to the government on its land reform agenda plans that ALTA be abolished, the 44 year old legislation remains in place.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

Qetaki said there are certain aspects of ALTA which they believe should be maintained when and if the legislation is reviewed.

Meanwhile, on government's intentions to issue 99 year leases for agricultural land under the Land reform agenda, the NLTB has also submitted that there must be provisions to ensure gradual increases in rent charges.

Anonymous said...

from Anon-i-mouse
There seems to be a jumping to conclusions here.
from the FBC.

ALTA will not be scrapped: NLTB
Friday, January 15, 2010

The Native Lands Trust Board says the Agricultural Landlord And Tenants Act (ALTA) will not be scrapped.

NLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki denies a newspaper report that he had said that ALTA will be scrapped.

Speaking to FBC News, Qetaki says ALTA is a legislative Instrument and it can only be scrapped by an Act of Parliament or by promulgation or a Decree.

He also adds that scrapping the ALTA will have to be based on a NLTB recommendation.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

Corruption Fighter said...

There's only one reason why there's confusion about land. The simple fact is that the military dictatorship has no real plans to do anything. They know they have to sound like they have an answer to the problem of idle land but they also know that it's political dynamite.

If they had thought about it at all they'd understand that making leases longer means that landowners are LESS likely to agree to new leases. If they're reluctant to have thirty year leases they are going to much more reluctant to have 99 year leases.

A lot of tenants dream of another ALTA, when all ten years leases were automatically turned into 30 year leases. They think all we need now is for 30 year leases to be made into 99 year leases, as if leases autmotically triple in length every thirty years. They never understood that Ratu Mara spent all his political capital within the Fijian community getting the Great Council of Chiefs approval for the change to thirty years. For which he never received a vote in return because tenants listened to Ratu Mara's critics who accused him of corruption without ever producing the evidence to prove their accusations. (Sound familiar?)

The best hope of getting more idle land into production is to have shorter leases. Landowners are more likely to approve the leasing if they know the land will be available for future generations. But our fearless Cassava Patch warrior hasn't got the guts to propose that because it wouldn't give the support he wants from the cane leaseholders with their unrealistic hopes.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you for your comments, corruption fighter. As you can understand, this being a very public forum, I am reticient these days to make many comments about Fiji. However it is true that land issues are crucial and touchy and need to be sorted out to be as fairly as possible to landowner and tenant. I don't see that sugar will fit into the future picture so much though, and land can be utilised for a dozen or more alternative crops. The soil is rich and the potential is there. At the same time I still like to see forests surviving.