All posts by Customary Land Solutions

About Customary Land Solutions

Customary Land Solutions is a specialist transdisciplinary consultancy with the vision of equity for customary landowners. Our mission is to provide advocacy, advisory and capacity building solutions to customary and indigenous landowning groups and trusts on land management, leasehold, valuation and resource compensation issues.

Fiji parties urged to outline land policy ahead of poll – ABC News 24


Following on from his 7th June editorial in the Fiji Times, Professor Spike Boydell has been interviewed by ABC correspondent Sean Dorney for this item on ABC News 24 ‘The World’, which first aired on 24 June 2014. It also includes comments from the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayad-Khaiyum and Prof Satish Chand.  The link to the piece on the ABC website is available here.

Boydell ABC with logo“What people want is stability and land is central to that stability.” (Spike Boydell)


Call for Land Policies ahead of Fiji Elections – ABC Pacific Beat

Professor Spike Boydell has been interviewed on ABC Radio Australia about the need for political parties in Fiji to explain their land policies ahead of the elections.  A transcript of the interview is available here.  The full piece on ABC Radio Australia – Pacific Beat – first aired on 24 June 2013 is available here.

Why land is central to Fiji’s future stability

FT 'Time Bomb' imageWith 100 days to go to the Fiji elections in September, none of the political parties have yet explained in their manifesto’s how they will deal with land (indeed, where are the manifesto’s?).  In his feature editorial in the Fiji Times on Saturday 7th June, Spike Boydell highlights that being clear on land issues, having equitable leases that are fit for purpose at market rents, and respecting the paramountcy of iTaukei land – the vanua – is central to long term economic and political stability in Fiji.

Read the full article here.

Pacific Regional Symposium – Land and Property Rights in the South Pacific – Honiara 5-7 August 2014

Symposium image flyer

CLS members Spike Boydell, Ulai Baya and John Sheehan are co-facilitating the Pacific Regional Symposium – Land and Property Rights in the South Pacific – Honiara 5-7 August 2014 (flyer & registration form) with Mike McDermott.

This Symposium is a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE), the University of Technology, Sydney: Asia-Pacific Centre for Complex Real Property Rights (UTS: APCCRPR) and the International Academic Association for Planning Law and Property Rights (IAAPLPR). It is being hosted by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Lands, Housing and Surveys.  It has been made possible through a small grant from the Commonwealth Foundation and the support of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Surveys.

This is the second regional Land and Property Rights symposium co-facilitated by the UTS: APCCRPR and the IAAPLPR.

Please click on the highlighted text above, or the image on the left for more information.

The CLS site will be the digital repository for the symposium resources and video record of the event.  If you are unable to attend, but would like to be notified when the resources are online, please complete the following contact form:

How to make the iTLTB better – a users guide

Never a pWorld Bank 2014 logorophet at home, today we took our review of the iTaukei Land Trust Board (iTLTB) to the world stage, presenting to a packed conference venue at the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference 2014 in Washington DC.
Sometimes, Fiji just doesn’t realise how good they have things.

Boydell & Baya WB 2014 slideOur analysis of the iTLTB highlights that the recording of landowner groups in Fiji over the last 120 years, whilst not without some problems, has made it easier to set up a land trust administration to make surplus customary land available for economic development by using lease structures. The iTLTB has now been running (in its earlier guise as the NLTB) for almost 70 years. In this paper we have provided a comprehensive analysis of the iTLTB and made a number of recommendations as to how it may further enhance the professional services that it offers to the customary landowners that it serves.

So come on iTLTiTLTB logoB, it is time to stop being lethargic (according to PM Bainimarama) and take leadership of land in Fiji.  And to all of you aspiring to run for the elections in Fiji this year… you can’t afford to overlook the land issue. You can read our roadmap for making the iTLTB fit for purpose in the 21st Century here.


Ulai Baya talks option pricing with the Fiji Indigenous Business Council

Ulai Baya shares the ideaSlide01 of using option pricing to negotiate compensation for mining activities on customary land to an interested crowd at the  the Fiji Indigenous Business Council conference at the Holiday Inn, Suva, on 19 March 2013.  Really, he asked, how can governments not afford to look seriously at option pricing to negotiate a better deal for customary landowners? How indeed!

Managing customary land in Fiji – Ulai Baya and Spike Boydell ask ‘is the current trust structure fit for purpose?’


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.

A PDF copy of the presentation is available here.



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.

It is time to reverse this trend.

Ulai Baya represents CLS at ACP Secretariat in Brussels


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 speaking on sea level rise in Utrecht

(Left to right) Professor Thomas Hartmann, Utrecht University; Dr. Ed Dammers, Senior Researcher, Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL -Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency); and John Sheehan (CLS) at the PBL offices in The Hague [October 2013]
(Left to right) Professor Thomas Hartmann, Utrecht University; Dr. Ed Dammers, Senior Researcher, Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL -Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency); and John Sheehan (CLS) at the PBL offices in The Hague [October 2013]
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.