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Ratu Seru Cakobau

Introduction

The Native Land Trust Board derives its existence from the Native Land Trust Act of 1940. A brief history of the land in Fiji will assist us understand the reason behind its creation.

Land Tenure between 1880 – 1916

At the time of Fiji was ceded to the British Crown in 1874, there were many foreign occupiers and claimants to areas of Fijian land. These had come about through dealings between chiefs and European beachcombers, Resident Governor Sir Arthur Gordon stopped all land sales immediately after Cession.

In 1876, a commission under Victor Williamson was set up to investigate all claims to title to these land. Many claims were refused many more reduced. Even so, some 400 000 acres of Fijian land were registered in freehold title as Crown Grants. These freehold land represented a substantial proportion of the good agricultural land of Fiji.

By 1880 it was realised that all land recognised to be owned by Fijians would have to be recorded and registered and also that there would have to bean authority to settle boundaries and ownership disputes. The Native Land Commission was established in 1880 to enquire and investigate claims to land by the indigenous landowner.

At the same time a leasehold system was created where land could be used on a 21 year lease. Negotiations were carried out directly between the Fijian land owner and the prospective tenant. Apart from a brief period between 1905 and 1909 outright sales of native land have continued to be forbidden.

1957

Initially problems developed between the European planters and the Fijian landowners, since the Europeans considered 21 year lease were too short to justify the investment required to develop plantations in virgin land. Apart from copra all other plantations required much permanent improvement to land first. The two main complaints were:

  • That the 1880 Ordinance did not require payment of compensation at the end of the lease when the land reverted to the land owners and that those wishing to lease land had to indulge in frustrating negotiations with many members of a mataqali to obtain their consent.
  • (At this time the government was involved only in the registration of leases negotiated between the tenant and the landowner and
    not in negotiating the actual terms).

However as the plantations system declined and Europeans left agriculture, the land problem became one peculiar to Indians. Their need was different: they wanted small family farms. At this stage the land problem can be summarized as follows:

  1. Obtaining lease was cumbersome and expensive for the prospective lessee.
  2. The Indians were naturally choosing only the best land for their leases thus bring about the haphazard piecemeal pattern of land use.
  3. So in 1916 a Native Lease Ordinance was passed which handed over all land available for leasing to the Government which would lease the land on the owners behalf and leases were now to be for a period of 21 years with a possible extension of 10 years.

Mounting Land Problems; 1916

1975

The Ordinance failed to solve the difficulties as Indians still had to negotiate directly with the Fijian owners for Leases of better quality agricultural land. During this period that land problems of Fiji became more acute due to important developments in the country such as:

  1. Abolishment of the indenture system that led to large numbers of Indians becoming free settlers in Fiji which led to a sudden pressure for more farming land.
  2. Active encouragement by government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to Indians to settle in Fiji and become agriculturists, especially cane farmers.
  3. Rapid growth of both Indian and Fijian population.

The Fijian owners also had their grievances:

  1. Under the 1916 legislation they were required to pay compensation to the lessee for improvements to the land in the event of non-renewal of a lease which would be very costly;
  2. Some Fijians were becoming anxious to enter commercial agriculture for themselves; and,
  3. They were anxious to safeguard the availability of the land for themselves and their descendants.

There was many debates in the 1930’s about the land issue in the Legislative Council, in the Great Council of Chiefs meeting, in Fijian villages and Indian settlements and in Government circles. The government held discussions with leading chiefs with the view to devising a better system of landlord and tenant relations. The leading figure in these discussions was the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. In 1936, the Great Council of Chiefs resolved that it was in the best interest of the native race that all lands not required for the maintenance of Fijian owners be opened for national development.

Native Land Trust Board.

2001

The native Land Trust Ordinance of 1940 established a new bases for the administration of native land. The main purpose was the creation of the Native Land Trust Board

This is an independent body outside the control of government. It administers all native land "for the benefit of Fijian Owners". It makes general policy relating to administration of Fijian land, approve new leases and renewal of leases, collect and distribute land rent, improve the pattern of land subdivision and help improve landlord and tenant relations.

A large part of its work in leasing land involves the assessment, fixing, collection and distribution of rents on Native Land. In simple terms, the NLTB is the landlord in official dealings over all native land.

The NLTB establishment has its Head Office in Suva. Also in Suva is the regional office responsible for the central and eastern division. The other regional offices are in Lautoka, and Labasa. Each of the regional office is responsible for an area of Fiji; the Lautoka office is responsible for western Viti Levu with the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands groups, the Labasa office for Vanua Levu and Taveuni. The Suva office for central and eastern Viti Levu, Kadavu and Lomaiviti and Lau group.

GOVERNORS - THE ROOT AND SEED OF NLTB
SIR HERCULES ROBINSON
(1874 - 1875)
SIR ARTHUR GORDON
(1875 - 1879
SIR ARTHUR RICHARDS, KCMG
(1936 - 1938)
GOVERNORS OF FIJI - PRESIDENTS OF NLTB - 1940 - 1987
SIR HARRY CHARLES LUKE, KCMG
(1938 - 1942)
SIR PHILP EUEN MITCHELL,
KCMG, MC
(1942 - 1944)
SIR ALEXANDER WILLIAM GEORGE HERDER GRANTHAM, KCMG
(1945 - 1947)
SIR LESLIE BRAIN FREESTON,
KCMG, OBE
(1948 - 1952)
SIR RONALD HERBERT GARVEY, KCMG, KCVO, MBE
(1952 - 1958)
SIR KENNETH PHIPSON MADDOCKS, KCMG, KCVO
(1958 - 1963)
 
SIR FRANCIS DEREK JAKEWAY,
KCMG, OBE
(1964 - 1968)
SIR ROBERT FOSTER, KCMG, KCVO
(1968 - 1970)
 
GOVERNORS - GENERAL
SIR ROBERT FOSTER, KCMG, KCVO
(1968 - 1970)
RATU SIR GEORGE K. CAKABAU GCMG, GCVO, KCMG, KBE, K.St.J.
(1972 - 1983)
RATU SIR PENAIA K. GANILAU, GCMG, KCVO, KBE, K.St.J., DSO, ED
(1983 - 1987)
PRESIDENT
RATU SIR PENAIA K. GANILAU, GCMG, KCVO, KBE, K.St.J., DSO, ED
(1988 - 1993)

RATU SIR
KAMISESE MARA

(1993 - 2000)

RATU JOSEFA ILOILO

      (2000 - 2009)

      RATU  EPELI        NAILATIKAU

     (current president)

 

 

 
   
 
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