April 15, 2019       Ministry of Agriculture

The Department of Environment confirms that all action(s) that it has taken with regards to the development undertaken at Wacia in Malolo island by Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) Ltd to date are within the Environment Management Act (2005). 

The Director of Environment issued a Prohibition Notice to FREDL on June 1, 2018 prohibiting FREDL from undertaking foreshore and construction related activities. In addition, we  further instructed FREDL to immediately rehabilitate the foreshore area. A list of work that needs to undertaken has been forwarded to the investor.

Despite the Prohibition Notice issued to the company on June 1, the company continued to carry out works at their project site. The Department referred the matter to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on August 29, 2018. The matter was called for first mention at the Nadi Magistrate Court in March 2019 and it has been adjourned to April 26, 2019.

The Company submitted their EIA Report (received on June 22, 2018) and Addendum to the EIA report (received on October 5, 2018) to the Department for land based and foreshore development for review and decision. After careful review process of the EIA report and the Addendum and in consultation with relevant experts (from the various NGOs, relevant Government Departments and academic institution), the Department reached a decision to approve only land based activities on December 24, 2018 with strict approval conditions. The Department issued a total of 55 approval conditions.  

On January 31 2019, the Department of Environment Inspectors (on our instructions) carried out an Environment Compliance Inspection. The inspection confirmed that a total of 20 out of the 55 approval conditions for land based activities were breached.  

We then wrote to the company informing them of the Ministry’s intention to cancel the company’s Land based EIA Approval on February 6, 2019 and allowed the company 14 days to respond. The company’s lawyers responded on February 27, 2019. The Department then reviewed the submissions and made the decision to cancel the company’s land based approval on April 4, 2019 citing commencement of the construction activities onsite without submitting the Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) to the Department of Environment. This in the Department’s opinion is a serious breach and will cause significant direct environmental impact(s) on land, the adjacent coastal and marine environment and the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) species and their habitat.  

The Ministry of Waterways and Environment has acted independently irrespective of the media publicity that we did not. The Ministry will continue to carry out its regulatory role in safeguarding and protecting Waterways and Environment of Fiji and will take action against any developer who does not comply through the legal means available to the Ministry.

It is in this regard we want to once again stress to every one the importance of consulting us when undertaking any development works so that our environment is protected via undertaking a EIA and implementing a EMP.

EIA is undertaken to maintain the efficacious control and the sustainable use of our natural resources.  The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a Regulatory Tool used “to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of any project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict the environmental impacts and the potential degradation at an early stage of a project (planning and design), finding ways to reduce and mitigate adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment, and present the predictions and options to the decision-makers.   

We will, from next week, be undertaking a series of EIA awareness workshop throughout Fiji so that everyone can have a clear understanding on the requirements, processes and timelines so that investors factor these in.

The Ministry affirms that the Department, in carrying out its roles in processing all applications (including the EIA), ensures that all legislative requirements required under the Environment Management Act 2005 are followed. The EIA process is inclusive, participatory, and transparent ensuring all concerns raised are addressed. It is not a “box ticking exercise”. 

I will now invite our PS to give out the details of the awareness workshops on EIA.