Communities, government departments, NGOs and the private sector came together on 22-24 August in a significant step towards a natural resource management plan for Macuata province.
Hosted by Macuata Provincial Office with support from WWF, the planning workshop took place at the Civic Centre in the provincial town of Labasa in the north of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. Macuata is one of 14 provinces and contains some of Fiji’s most intact ecosystems (from Welewara to Udu Point in the north-west) as well as some the most degraded (Qawa river catchment and around Wainikoro). Macuata’s customary fishing grounds include part of the Great Sea Reef, the third largest coral reef ecosystem in the world.
Stakeholders explored a wide range of issues; establishing a vision, identifying priority areas and drafting a structure for natural resource management. They outlined a key role for the Provincial Office, district environment committees and traditional leaders to link community, district (tikina) and provincial activities. They formed management recommendations for the Great Sea Reef (initially to undertake research and establish a network of marine protected areas, MPAs) and mapped out a wide range of existing and proposed priority areas for conservation.
Presentations on national and provincial strategies highlighted economic development plans emerging from the government’s Look North Policy, such as Bauxite mining at Dreketi and a new international port in next few years. The stream of trucks taking cane through town to the mill each night reminded us that sugar has shaped the local landscape and economy. During the workshop ANZ bank announced a $120million loan to Fiji Sugar Corporation. As that industry redefines itself, it was particularly good to see its representatives involved in discussions on how Macuata’s ecosystems can be sustainably managed for future generations.
Deputy Permanent Secretary for i-Taukei Affairs Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, participating in the workshop, noted that “Macuata is the first province to start management planning on this scale, setting a great example for other provinces to ensure that provincial development and sustainability go hand in hand”. With that in mind, the Macuata process provides valuable lessons for upscaling natural resource managment planning in Fiji. We hope these can be applied in other provinces, and particularly towards WCS Fiji’s forthcoming involvement in Integrated Coastal Management planning in the neighbouring province of Bua.