Oct 18, 2017 Last Updated 12:43 AM, Oct 5, 2017

SINCE Tropical Cyclone Winston made its brutal landfall in the country last year, Fiji has doubled its efforts to building back better and tripled its commitment to combat climate change. Keeping in mind the Paris agreement, individuals and organizations both have since then re-affirmed the importance of sustaining and restoring healthy ecosystems, including coastal areas, particularly for climate adaption purposes. Leadership Fiji 2016 (LF2016) and Mangrove for Fiji in this same spirit joined hands in establishing a mangrove restoration project for Malake Island that had to bear the brunt of the storm last year.

In August last year, the two teams visited Malake Island and built a 1000 propagule nursery. Following that, they made a second visit to the island this year and planted a new record of 6085 mangrove propagules along the coastline. Fiji Leadership 2016 representative James Pridgeon said the team chose Malake to initiate the project with because Ra was one of the badly affected areas during the storm.

“Malake is the biggest village in the Province of Ra. They are still rebuilding their homes and lives 15 months later,” he said.

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Killing the golden goose

High taxes threaten tourism

HIGH taxes and service charges have pushed Fiji’s major revenue generator into the more expensive destinations for tourists. With VAT increasing from 5 to 10 per cent and Service Turnover Tax reducing from 10 to six per cent and Departure Taxes at $200 per passenger, what was once a popular choice for New Zealanders and Australians may soon be out of reach for families.

And families are the key to the success of tourism in Fiji. Hoteliers have been forced to find creative ways to sell their destination and product in a very competitive market where technology has had a major impact on how companies reaching out to their customers.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has lobbied government not to tax the only industry that it claims actively and positively addresses environmental issues through pro-active self-funded programs. During a media workshop organized by the association in Suva last month, participants discussed the need to reduce the tax levied on the industry. Instead, tourism operators want the same taxes spread across industries which impacted the environment. These taxes would be collected and used to fund environment protection programs.

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Beauty with purpose

Miss World Fiji to use global pageant to spread divine word

FULL-TIME missionary and university science graduate Nanise Rainima will represent Fiji at this year’s Miss World Pageant to be staged in China in November. There are three things on her mind: to spread the word about her faith, to promote her culture, and to create awareness about climate change.

The 25-year old lass from Nakelo, Tailevu has a distinguishing feature that makes her stand out. The “buiniga” or traditional Fijian afro hairstyle that she wears with pride. “It’s the true epitome of Fijian beauty,” she says. Nanise will be the first indigenous woman to represent Fiji at the global event. Previous contestants have either been part-European or Indian with long straight hair.

She calls it a blessing having the “buiniga” but reaction on social media from outside Fiji has not been receptive. However, she is determined to fully experience what the pageant has to offer, both the negative and positive. “I’m fully aware of what I’m getting myself into and I’m ready.” It’s not usual for a missionary with a strong evangelical church background to be entering pageants. But this is nothing new to Nanise.

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THE Attorney General and Minister for the Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is probably the most influential Minister this country has ever had. His influence is everywhere, in the Decrees, the Constitution, the Electoral system, economic policies the news media and even foreign policies of this country.

He has been in a position of unusual power and influence since 2007 when he became the Attorney General and Minister for Justice under the first Cabinet of Commodore Bainimarama. That was after the removal through a bloodless Coup of the elected government led by Laisenia Qarase on December 4, 2006.

Will Khaiyum’s influence on the direction and evolution of Fiji as a state, a political and economic system and a nation of diverse people, be of lasting significance? This is a question that should be evaluated and answered after he is no longer in power, by those who are better qualified and can take a more objective and balanced assessment.

This column is only a narrow impressionistic commentary on some of his initiatives and impacts, particularly on development towards the 2013 Constitution. Parliament and the electoral laws. I generally raise the question: What had motivated him and will his actions be of lasting value to the country?

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Fiji rugby feels the heat

Pressure mounts on Fij i Rugby Union to investigate Ben Ryan’s sevens franchise

BEN Ryan has been labelled a “master coach”. But he is also the mastermind behind the idea to franchise the Fiji 7s team to address the financial welfare of the players, keep the fans happy, and make money for the Fiji Rugby Union. Since last August’s inaugural Olympic gold medal feat for rugby sevens, the FRU has not attempted to leverage its key resource, the Fiji 7s brand. It refuses to comment on the issue, except for a slur in Parliament by the Sports Minister linking the idea to the way McDonald’s and Starbucks run their business, purely for commercial profiteering.

But Ryan’s idea of franchising the Fiji 7s team is based on the Green Bay Packers model. “When I talk franchise, I talk Green Bay Packers. That type of franchise that could work,” Ryan told the ABC Pacific Beat. The Green Bay Packers is a professional American football team that sells shares to its fans to raise money.

It is a public, non-profit organization whose shares do not gain value. They don’t pay dividends and ownership can only be transferred to immediate family members. There’s a $200,000 cap limit on individual shares to prevent any one person becoming the majority owner. In 2011, the Packers needed money to upgrade their stadium so they sold 185,000 new shares at $250 each to raise the $46.25 million they needed.

Profits are re-invested back into the franchise, while 60 per cent of gains from share concession sales are given to local charities. The team has won 13 World Series and 4 Super Bowls. Ryan is adamant the Packers model would suit the Fiji 7s.

Fiji has the fan-base support from individuals and corporate groups both locally and abroad to raise money the FRU don’t seem to have to maintain the Olympic and World Series winning teams. Player’s contracts continue to plague the team while facilities and other crucial resources are scarcely available.

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