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Archived News: January 2011

From Fiji Times Online (27 January 2011)

Work to commence on Rotuma airport

THE upgrading of the Rotuma Airport will begin once a company to carry out works has been identified.

Deputy Secretary responsible for the Rotuma Affairs Unit in the Prime Minister's office Tomasi Tui said the upgrading works, once completed, would support the declaration of Rotuma as an international port of entry.

"We have a $4million allocation and we will negotiate with companies that may wish to undertake the works," he said.

"That's the responsibility of Airports Fiji Limited.

"We provide an advisory role in identifying potential companies to go and work on the airstrip."

The airstrip is located near Else'e, a village in the district of Malhaha.

The runway measures 1494 meters or 4902 feet in length.

Mr Tui said returns on this major investment would be felt in the coming years, especially as Government worked to open up tourism markets on the island.

Meanwhile, works on the island's jetty would be completed this year.

Government allocated $400,000 in its 2011 Budget to complete the extension of the jetty by about seven meters.

Work on the jetty began last year on a $1.4m allocation that also covered the costs of extending the power grid by seven kilometers from the government station in Ahau to Rotuma High School at Malhaha.

"We're working to see the jetty meets the minimum standards required," Mr Tui said.

"The minimum standards required - these include where the ships will anchor, a certain depth is required, safety of vessels and all that - those are the minimum requirements.

"We also have the option if ships cannot berth, then we have a working boat - that can take the cargo to the mother vessel."

The trickle on economic effects of these infrastructural developments will stir up the island economy and retain the 2000 odd island population.

Additionally it will also encourage islanders living on Viti Levu to return to the island and utilise natural resources for economic development.

About 10,000 Rotuman's reside on Viti Levu.

From Fiji Sun Online (26 January 2011)

New vessel for Rotuma, Tuvalu trade

It is likely that a Government vessel will now facilitate the trade between Rotuma and Tuvalu.
Trade between the two islands was put on hold from last year due to the unavailability of a vessel which was supposed to have been provided by the Tuvalu Government.

It was initially scheduled to start in August, 2009.

Rotuma will have to supply root crops to the atoll of Tuvalu followed by the trading of fruits such as pawpaw.

Government Shipping Services director Ilisoni Tuimabualau said they are aware of the speculations that they were going to facilitate the trade.

However, he said nothing concrete has come to hand. This trade agreement now comes under the Prime Minister's office.

"There are a lot of speculations going on and we have also been told of the need for us to provide the vessel to facilitate the trade," Mr Tuimabualau said.

"However, there has been no confirmation from the ministry responsible," he added. Efforts made to get comments from the Permanent Secretary of the PM's Office Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua proved futile.

Meanwhile, GSS has had interested parties who are keen to buy the four Government vessels that are up on sale.

Mr Tuimabualau said these interested buyers are working with their evaluators.

"We have interested buyers and they are negotiating with our evaluators after the expression of interest was put up on the newspaper," he said.

"We will be able to determine their cost from the bidding that would take place from our interested buyers."

The MV Tovuto, MV Golea, MV Tokalau and the MV Tabusoro are currently on sale as the government looks at buying new vessels as replacements.

From Ministry of Information, Fiji Government Website (26 January 2011)

Rotuma Tuvalu Trade

The Fijian Government is holding talks with the Government of Tuvalu for the facilitation of root crop exports from Rotuma.

Deputy secretary responsible for the Rotuma Affairs Unit in the Prime Minister's office Tomasi Tui said they were negotiating for the Tuvaluan vessel Nivaga 2 to pick up root crops like dalo, sweet potato and cassava from Rotuma on its way back to Tuvalu.

The vessel will sail in to the country in February to load cargo from the Suva wharf.

"And once they load their cargo from here, which is the arrangement we put to the Tuvalu High Commissioner for the vessel to go to Rotuma and pick, dalo, cassava and sweet potatoes and go to Tuvalu," Mr Tui said.

"These root crops are separate from what they send to Fiji.

"Last year because of delays in getting exports to Tuvalu, REMCOL has been sending dalo to Fiji."

Rotuma Export and Marketing Company Limited or REMCOL is the business arm of the Rotuma Island Council.

It will be the first export of such root crops from Rotuma to Tuvalu, once talks regarding transportation are secured.

Government plans to cement bilateral trade between Tuvalu and Fiji with exports from Tuvalu of things like handicraft, copra and even fish.

"They have two ships – one is the Nivaga 2 – we just need to firm up with the movement of their vessels and once that is put in place it will help us strengthen the ties between the two countries," Mr Tui said.

"Once we agree on the lists then our bio security will develop protocols for them and then the two countries will enter negotiations.

"Once they have approval then other commodities the Tuvalu Government would like to export to Fiji will also be put in place.

"That would help in Fiji sending exports to Tuvalu and Tuvalu reciprocating."

From Fiji Times Online (26 January 2011)

Land acts

FINAL drafts of the Rotuma Act and the Rotuma Lands Act will be tabled before Cabinet within the first quarter of 2011. Deputy secretary in the Prime Minister's Office Tomasi Tui said the two laws had to be reviewed and amended because they were "archaic". Rotuma islanders called for a review of the laws when Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama visited the island in 2009.

From Fiji Times Online (26 January 2011)

Airline suspends trip to Rotuma

PACIFIC Sun has temporarily suspended its Rotuma service. According to a statement released by the airline, Pacific Sun announced that services will be suspended after completion of its weekly flight this Friday.

The main reason for the temporary suspension is a lack of aviation fuel on the island to allow refuelling of aircraft returning to Nadi.

Airline general manager Jim Samson said he was hopeful that services would resume once aviation fuel reaches the island by February 18.

He added that Pacific Sun has been assured fuel would be shipped to Rotuma from Suva on February 14.

"While we regret the suspension, we will continue to take bookings on our Friday Nadi/Rotuma/Nadi service," said Mr Samson.

"We hope to clear all outstanding cargo and passengers on this Friday's flight to the island and Pacific Sun is looking forward to resuming services by 18 February," he said.

Like its services to Vanuabalavu, Lakeba and Cicia, Pacific Sun flights to Rotuma are subsidised by the Government's franchise scheme. The airline uses Twin Otter aircraft to service the route with a flying time of two and a half hours.

Government has announced plans to lengthen the runway at Rotuma to enable the use of ATR-42 aircraft.

It is hoped that this upgrade will take place this year.

From Fiji Times Online (25 January 2011)

Blue Lagoon to resume services

by Felix Chaudhary

BLUE Lagoon Cruises is set to resume services to Rotuma on February 12 and March 12 this year. This after MV Nanuya Princess's maiden and subsequent voyages in November last year proved to be nothing short of swashbuckling successes.

Chief executive officer Tim Stonhill said the two trips planned over the next few months completed their contractual obligation to Fiji Shipping Corporation Limited.

He remained optimistic for future voyages to Rotuma for Blue Lagoon Cruises.

"On our maiden voyage, we had a full ship of 104 passengers who departed from Lautoka and we returned with 64," he explained.

"Our January 11 trip took 78 passengers and brought back most of those we had taken before Christmas we had another full ship of 104 passengers.

"We are scheduled to do another voyage on February 12 and March 12. That will complete our franchise contract. We are currently looking at renewal for the months after March 2011."

Cargo for the coming trips is limited to 150kg per passenger because of the size of the ship while fares are inclusive of all meals.

Blue Lagoon Cruises was asked by Fiji Shipping to service the Fiji-Rotuma sea route after a temporary suspension of inter-island services placed on Bligh Water Shipping's MV Westerland in October last year by Minister of Transport Timoci Natuva.

The suspension was based on complaints by the Rotuma Island Council that the roll-on-roll-off vessel had 'flaws'.

However, the Fiji Islands Maritime Safety Administration gave the vessel the all-clear to resume service on November 15.

From Fijivillage (25 January 2011)

Flight to Rotuma suspended

The once a week flight to Rotuma by Pacific Sun will be suspended from this Friday.

In a press statement, Pacific Sun General Manager Jim Samson said the route from Nadi to Rotuma and back will be suspended temporarily.

According to the airline, while they regret suspending the route, the flights will resume once aviation fuel reaches the island by the 18th of February.

In the meantime, Samson said they will continue with their bookings as they look at clearing all cargo by this Friday.

Story by: Paradise Tabucala

From Ron Mathewsell in Brisbane (11 January 2011)

Flash flooding occurred on Monday, 10 January in Toowoomba, about 1.5 hrs drive north west of Brisbane. Eight people are confirmed dead with 72 persons missing. I'm sure there will be some concerned family members back home in Fiji and Rotuma, as well as the wider rotuman community abroad.

More than twenty Rotuman and Fijian families live and work at the tannery in Toowoomba. Most of the rotuman families live on high ground, but concerns were held for Sean who lives at Wilcott (near the base of the Toowoomba ranges) where the flash floods swept homes away; he has since made contact with those in Toowoomba.

From my sources in Brisbane and Toowoomba, all the Rotuman families are safe and well. However heavy rains, storms and the possibility of flash flooding to the already flooded areas are forecast for SE Qld. Major roads to Toowoomba from Brisbane at this moment is closed with access limited to safe flying weather conditions.

From Fiji Times Online (7 January 2011)

Rotuma trade to start soon

by Verenaisi Raicola

TRADE between Rotuma and Tuvalu will start soon after the High Temperature Forced Air (HTFA) machine was installed and tested on fruits for export.

Agriculture Minister Joketani Cokanasiga said on Thursday that a (HTFA) unit was being installed in Rotuma and would be completed next month.

He said the unit would promote and facilitate trade and export of fruits and vegetables from Rotuma to Tuvalu and other Pacific Island countries.

Biosecurity Authority director Ilaitia Boa said earlier the quarantine facilities on Rotuma were audited by the head of quarantine from Tuvalu.

He said three commodities and other fresh produce were permitted to be exported to Tuvalu.

Mr Boa said exports of the commodities would be carried out under the terms and conditions for the trade of fresh agriculture produce between the two islands.

The fruit trade includes pawpaw and mango. These would be treated under the HTFA before it is exported to Tuvalu.

The challenge faced between the two countries was transportation of the products, an issue faced by Tuvalu today.

From John Bennett in Rotuma (6 January 2011)

I'm sending a photo from Rotuma via a Digicel modem. Lighters from the Westerland are offloading cargo at Motusa as it is too rough at Oinafa. Rain has been intense on Rotuma for a week now. It's is certainly the heaviest I've experienced in 35 years.

Unloading launch at Motusa