Contributed article by Paula Raqeukai, the president of the Pacific Islands Landowners Consultancy Group.
WHILE I commended the initiative by the Mataqali Burewaqa of Kia Island to give their land to the Land Bank of Fiji, I strongly advise the landowners and their local consultants or representative, (including NLTB), to seek independent professional advice on the development feasibility of this proposed multi-million dollar land project.
My humble advice to landowners is to seek address on the following areas before surrendering their land interest to the Land Bank of Fiji for an uncertain period of time:
1. What is the estimate residual land value for acquisition or disposal purposes based on the hypothetical development (proposed 12 allotments of 4.16 acres each on the 50 acres site development)?
2. What is the estimate financially appraised of this property development and at the same time test its viability or feasibility against the value of the total land resources and the people of Kia Island (tangible and intangible values)?
3. What is the best model of joint venture debt/equity arrangements to adopt for the landowners (sideline head lessor) or in this case the government (head lessor) on the proposed development;
4. Has the Fiji land reform unit or it reps evaluate multiple development options on the proposed site to determine its highest and best use?
5. Has the Fiji land reform unit or its reps analyze the possible risks involved in such high magnitude land development using sensitivity testing and probability analysis via the usage of any aided computer software available to land professionals?
The above are some of my concerns that any prudent landowners should be aware of when seeking to invest in land for an optimum return during an unspecific period of investment.
Land reform elsewhere in the world has both its positive and negative effects and in certain countries like Somalia and Thailand the very people who were supposed to benefit from the land reforms become much worse off today.
In my opinion land reforms are not bad if the full consultancy of all stakeholders (including the native land resource owners) is involved and arriving at a consensus.
As a landowner I would not like to see what happened in Somalia (land grabs as a result of non-consultation of the landowners/breakdown of structured government) and Thailand (the priority shift of land reforms from landowners to tenants; land reform controversy; the distribution issue; the implementation problems) to happen in Fiji in the next 30 years.
Remember a wise land reform decision made today will certainly have an everlasting effect to the next generations to come.
Picture: Land reform in Africa has often failed to address poverty and hardship despite good intentions.