Na Vanua o Nadi, Momo na Tui Nadi;
Momo na Tui Nawaka;
Momo Levu na Tui Sabeto;
Marama na Taukei Naua;
Momo na Taukei Navo;
The Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development, Hon. Premila Kumar;
Chair of the Special Administrators for Nadi and Sigatoka;
H.E. The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Mr. John Feakes;
United Nations Women Representative, Ms Sandra Bernklau;
Market Vendors; and
Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
You’re more likely to find me at the market on Saturday morning than mid-day on a Friday – that’s when I’m usually out looking for nama and mud lobster – but I’m happy to make an exception to join you today as we cut the ribbon on the beautiful new Namaka market.
For any first-time visitor to our shores seeking a taste of the real Fiji – both in cuisine and in culture – my advice would be to start in any of our markets. Nothing serves up a more genuine slice of Fijian life than the foods, the smells, the crafts and the entrepreneurial energy found in the stalls of markets from Suva, to Labasa, to Ba and, of course, right here in Nadi as well.
With two floors of colourful selling space and offices, 288 vendor stalls, and 40 beds, this new Namaka Market is more than Nadi’s latest landmark, it is a new engine of economic empowerment for Nadi town – already, one of the Pacific’s most dynamic local economies.
This new Market’s construction was funded directly by your Government to the tune of $4.8 million, with another 400,000 dollars provided from our friends in the Australian Government through UN-Women.
There’s a lot I could say about what this new Market means for Nadi and about what it means for the rural Fijians who travel here from far and wide to sell their produce and wares. But I won’t go on about the building specs, or bore you with talk about how many kilos of concrete and sheet metal went into it. Instead, I think the stories of its vendors speaks most powerfully – showing the real impact that this facility will have on the lives of ordinary Fijians.
I’d like to share the story of one of those vendors, Ms Viniana Liku, today. Vini – if you’re here today, please, stand up and give us a wave.
Vini sells flowers; flowers grown in her village, Nayavu – in my favourite Province, Tailevu – which she transports four long hours by bus to sell here in Namaka. She’s a businesswoman, collecting flowers from growers back home with whom she shares the income she makes at the Market.
Before the new Namaka Market became a reality, Vini was selling her flowers outdoors where, under the intense heat of the sun, her flowers stayed fresh for just two days – if she was lucky. On rainy days, she was totally exposed to the elements. At night, she’d pay out of her own pocket to travel to Lautoka to rest before returning to the market the next day. As we know, many other women vendors sometimes get their rest on footpaths; of course, it is uncomfortable and it is unsafe, but it is easier than making the long journey back and forth from the market and home.
But now, the opening of this new market will open Vini’s life to incredible new opportunity. Instead of selling flowers under the hot sun, she can sell in comfort of the indoors, where her flowers will stay fresh and beautiful, longer. Instead of travelling to Lautoka, she can use the market’s new hostel facilities, and its showers, bathrooms and other sanitary services to rest and freshen up before she returns to the job. And in this clean and attractive new facility, she’ll see more customers and earn more income, and she can add her own creativity and character to her selling space, making it truly her own.
I know what this new market means for Vini and the hundreds of other vendors who sell in this space. Vendors such as Mere Driu, who sells fresh vegetables – which we all should be adding more of to our diets. Or Angie Prasad, who has been selling here in Namaka for nearly two decades.
And whether you are selling yaqona, dalo, cassava, bhindi, baji, chili, fish, spices, pineapple, pawpaw or any other fresh, high-quality Fijian meats and produce — today is your day to celebrate.
And for our seafood vendors, there’s a new ice machine in the fish market that vendors can use to keep fish fresh and chilled. Touches like this will grant an assurance of quality that will sell more fish, reduce waste, and put more money in your pockets.
We’ve also designed this Market with sustainability in mind, with an open ceiling that allows for natural light, and a clever rain harvesting roof system, that captures water we can use to keep the space clean. And – following our ban on single-use plastics – I’m happy to hear local women’s groups will be selling cloth reusable bags to keep shopping in Namaka sustainable.
But let’s be clear: This building is much more than a market. It’s a tourism destination – with a new bus bay to ferry visitors from hotels and cruise ships. And it’s a one-stop centre for business needs, with a Nadi Town Council Sub-Office on level two where Fijians can pay rates, answer questions and lodge business and development applications.
So, you can do your shopping and settle any business dealings with the Town Council, all in a single afternoon. And while we’re discussing business licences, I’m proud to see that every vendor at this new Market will be granted a free business licence for the next year.
My friends, we have a lot to celebrate in this new facility, but let’s remember, this is only one piece of a larger and bolder agenda to build Fijian communities, towns and cities catered to a future-facing, modern economy – and everyday Fijians, like the many vendors here today, are at the heart of that vision set out by my Government.
Many nations before us have walked remarkable paths of progress, and we’d be wise to learn from their experiences.
Take Singapore, for example. 50 years ago, it was a backwater Asian port; today, it is a global powerhouse of commerce. That’s a big reason why we’ve enlisted Singaporean city-planning expertise to map out Fijian towns and cities future growth. We’re considering where our people are today, and where they will be in the coming years, what they will need and how smart decisions today can serve their future interests. So long as we stick to that vision, I truly believe that Fiji will be this century’s next great story of human achievement. We’re getting there, one new road, one new school and one new market at a time. And my friends, the Namaka Market is the latest step on this journey of progress— it’s a very big step indeed.
In closing, I would like to dedicate the opening of Namaka Market to the vendors who will sell within these walls. For you – our hard-working Fijians – this Market is more than a building; it is a symbol of economic mobility, a place where opportunity can be found and where hard work can deliver big rewards. Because while this facility is no doubt impressive, what truly impresses me most is the energy and endeavour of the Fijian people who fuel our economic engine.
Judging from the smiles and happiness I see in front of me this afternoon, I know my Government’s $4.8 million- investment in this Market has been well worth every dollar.
I urge the vendors here today: Make the most of what we’ve built for you, apply your creativity, bring innovative ideas and unleash your entrepreneurial spirit – because when you do well for yourselves, you do well for your nation.
The hard work you put in today will be what builds the Fiji of the future.
Vinaka vakalevu. God bless you all.