Nasaroa Vua na Turaga na Tui Wairiki;
Management and Staff of Fiji Roads Authority; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be here this morning to kick-off day two of my tour of the North.
I’m not only here in the North to open the latest round of development projects we’ve delivered for this Division.
I’m also here to visit areas impacted by Tropical Cyclone Tino and see for myself that our response efforts are adequate and underway.
Today in Macuata we’re officially commissioning the new Nakorotari Crossing, a 4.5-Million-Dollar addition to the expanding and improving network of infrastructure across Vanua Levu.
Great nations are built on the back of great networks of infrastructure. Every country and people that have risen to global prominence have done so by making strategic investments in the roads, bridges, airports, services and other key projects that connect citizens to each other and connect countries to the prospects of the wider world.
My Government recognises that funding towards infrastructure represents a direct investment in the opportunities available to the Fijian people.
Our ten straight years of economic growth have – in no small way – been owed to the historic levels of investment we’ve poured into Fiji’s infrastructure network, opening communities across the country to new markets, new jobs and new goods and services, thereby unlocking the tremendous productive potential that lies within every
Investments in infrastructure create new jobs in construction and maintenance, stimulating local economies. Once completed, these projects make it easier, faster, more convenient and more affordable to travel, particularly in rural areas which – for far too long – did not see the full benefits of our national development. Under past leadership in this country, Fiji’s growth was limited to the larger population centres. Cities and major towns saw some progress, while rural Fijians watched that development from the sidelines. That is not the Fiji of today.
While our urban economies are growing more consistently than ever, Fijians from rural areas are also seeing massive gains in quality of living. That is exactly why Fiji is one of the few countries in the Asia-Pacific region where inequality is actually decreasing.
For the past 14 months, the Fiji Roads Authority has been hard at work constructing this new crossing, establishing a critical link across the Labasa River between the Nakorotari and Siberia roads. It also marks the start of my Government’s long-term aim of creating a strategic, climate-proof link between Labasa and Savusavu that will cut travel times between the two towns by up to one hour.
The Labasa River is a powerful force of nature, with six rivers merging together at a single location. That has made the communities which surround this river increasingly vulnerable to the stronger cyclones that have been striking Fiji in recent years.
Because of climate change, severe weather events that used to hit us once every few years are now hitting our country several times in a single season. When those storms strike, water levels swell, and key transit points along Fijian rivers can become flooded. In the case of the pedestrian suspension bridge on Siberia Road, when heavy rains fell, children were blocked from their journey to school. Today, we end that difficulty for your young people, because we cannot – we will not — allow our changing climate to limit our nation’s progress or the opportunities afforded to young Fijians.
The new crossing we’re commissioning today is a two-lane structure constructed of solid steel piles. This project meets the high bar of quality mandated by my Government; it is built to a cyclone-resilient standard with a design life of 100 years. Community members from the Tikinas of Wailevu, Wairiki, and Labasa, will all feel the benefits of this new investment, as it can be used as an alternative route around Labasa.
This new crossing is capable of supporting buses, as well. I encourage the travelling public to take advantage of this new bus route. By choosing transportation by bus, you can help reduce congestions and delays in the Labasa town area.
Whether it is students travelling to school, breadwinners making their way to work, farmers heading to market or Fijians travelling to visit friends and family, I’m proud we’ve helped make their journeys safer and easier by opening this new crossing. Today is yet another victory for Team Fiji, as we once again make life better, more secure and more convenient for more of our people. And this, my friends, is only the beginning. Every year we will have more to celebrate; every year our future will grow even worthier of great optimism and expectation.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.