Speaking at the Fiji Institute of Valuation and Estate Management Conference on 30 November 2013, Ulai Baya presented a paper that questioned if the current trust structure is fit for purpose in managing customary land in Fiji. Drawing on research that Ulai conducted with Spike Boydell, he highlighted that the good governance of customary land remains central to all aspects of life in contemporary Fiji. Fiji has recorded genealogies since the 1880s and is arguably better placed than its Melanesian neighbours to deal with external influences seeking access to customary land for commercial gain (including mineral exploration, forestry, palm oil, agriculture and tourism). Commercially, Fiji has benefited from the establishment of the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) in the 1940s as a quasi-governmental body that has administered all customary land in Fiji on behalf of indigenous groups and changed its name to the iTaukei Land Trust Board (iTLTB) in 2011.
The iTLTB has demonstrated in Fiji that leasing is an instrument that can render the freedom of doing business on customary owned land. Our research identifies that there is a need to review the lease management functions of the iTLTB to align it to contemporary land based development in Fiji. There is a need to balance the land based economic drivers of the national economy on one hand with the needs and aspirations of registered landowning units on the other.
This paper critically examines the progressive approach towards the administration and control of customary land in Fiji given the “all and inclusive” sui generis nature of customary property. After discussion how iTLTB is adapting to operational changes we proffer recommendations for the reform of lease terms, management and ownership of improvements on customary land, the rental basis and valuation models, to ensure that it remains a viable institution to protect customary interests into the future.
We agree with much of Joel Simo’s useful news article published in the Sydney Morning Herald last week (available here). However, whilst we know and have respect for Joel Simo, and accept that leases have been inappropriately drafted in Vanuatu, we remain of the view that appropriately drafted leases are part of the solution as well (see our guidance on leaseholds). This view is not shared by the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA) – but hope that they will come to realise that leases are the only way that surplus customary land can be accessed and made economically productive by third parties. What is important is ensuring that the leases are at commercial rents (as opposed to unimproved capital value), regularly reviewed, have an appropriate duration(for the customary landowners), and any improvements should be returned with the land to the customary landowners at lease expiry (or renewal) in good and tenantable repair. The problem, as we see it, is that historically in the Pacific leases have been drafted to benefit external investors and colonial interests rather than the customary landowners.
Ulai Baya represented Customary Land Solutions at the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Secretariat Validation Meeting on Private Sector Support in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday 11th November. The ACP Business Climate Programme Management Unit, BizClim, fully sponsored Ulai’s participation at this key international event.
John Sheehan, is currently a Visiting Professor at the Universiteit Utrecht Urban and Regional Research Centre. Whilst there, John is speaking on Transferable Development Rights to Accommodate Sea Level Rise, and has also been invited to meet with the Dutch Governments Sea Level Rise Agency in the Hague to discuss his current research on TDRs.
Imagine, if you will, what might change in terms of our identity as citizens if Australia were to become a Republic – something that many see as inevitable, albeit a situation which is yet to become a reality. I’m not talking here about the tokenism of a new flag or a contemporary national anthem, or even in the transfer of proxy leadership from a Governor General as representative of the English Crown to a President as representative of the Federation of States and Territories. Rather, my interest lies in what happens to the superior interest in land and the associated subsidiary property rights when (rather than if) Australia becomes a Republic, and what the ramifications are for notions of identity… if we replace the Crown and the Crown’s superior interest in the land with something, and if that something is an acknowledgement of the guardianship of the land through Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander stewardship, would this, could this, or should this affect the underlying way that we as 21st century citizens relate to real property.
In his recently published chapter – A 21st Century Citizen in a brave new Republic – Spike Boydell explores how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander native title could be prioritised over freehold land if, or when, Australia becomes a Republic.