Na Vanua o Nacobua, Gone Turaga na Roko Tui Namata;
Turaga Talatala Qase na Wasewase o Yasawa i Ra;
The Minister for Infrastructure, Hon. Jone Usamate;
FRA Board Members;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and good morning to you all.
It was my pleasure to come to the Namata District just two weeks ago to dedicate a new bridge, the Waidamu Bridge, which will make life easier and travel safer for more than 5,000 people.
Today we have just dedicated a new road extension, which will also make life easier and safer—safer for the children who must use the roads to walk to school, and easier for the farmers who need good roads to get their produce to market and bring in the supplies and equipment they need. These projects are all connected because they each contribute to the modernization of a stronger, more modern and more resilient road infrastructure.
I remember when I first discussed the need for this road extension with you, the residents of Namata. I had come here to commission the Logani-Raralevu by-pass in 2017. You saw the need very keenly then. So we listened, and we investigated, and we made our plans, and now it is a reality. That is the way democratic Government is supposed to work: We listen to the people and try to provide what they need to make sure their communities thrive. We can’t deliver everything for all communities at once, but we make sure we hear every voice and understand the needs of every community.
That is the way we are building our national infrastructure. This bypass is built to withstand the worst storms that we believe Mother Nature can inflict on us.
And there are several similar projects underway throughout Fiji. Under the Fiji Roads Authority’s Rural Roads Programme, some nine (9) access roads and by-passes have been completed recently or are under-way.
Improving access to the main road networks for rural communities helps tie them more effectively into our national economy and our national life. It is just one way of ending the isolation and disadvantage that many rural communities feel. As you know, a major objective of my Government is to decrease the gap in living standards and opportunity between Fijians who live in cities and Fijians who live in rural areas. We all need to progress together.
This project cost nearly Three Million Dollars and was financed entirely by Government. It is money well spent because this access road will repay that cost many times over in the economic advantages, health advantages and transportation advantages it brings to Namata.
For more than 1,000 people in Namata village and the Matadawa rural settlement, and to the farmers in this district, this is not just a road. It is a new lifeline. It is a path to a better future. It is a safer and faster walk to school. And it is a firm and unbreakable connection to the rest of Fiji.
I believe that Government always does well when it gets its inspiration from the people, because the people are wise.
And I am happy that you spoke up and told us what you needed. I have found that when I visit villages like Namata, the people don’t ask for charity; they ask for opportunity. They don’t ask for handouts; they ask to be a part of the national life. They don’t ask to be treated better than other Fijians; they ask to be treated equally. They ask for reasonable access to the services that Government is duty-bound to provide them by, services that are guaranteed in the Constitution. I know that once you have that, you will produce more, you will live better, your children will grow stronger, and Fiji will be a better place tomorrow than it is today.