Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

First of all, I want to thank the people of Namoli – and every Fijian living in and around Lautoka – for their cooperation through the lockdown of the Lautoka Confined Area, and for their diligence throughout our nationwide effort to stomp out the deadly coronavirus.

Lautoka was where our first case of the virus was identified. I’m sure each of you can remember exactly where you were, who you were with and what you were doing when the news first broke.

Had we not acted decisively then, Lautoka could all too easily have become the epicentre of a viral outbreak that spread across the country, claiming an untold number of Fijian lives. But we did not let that happen. We acted quickly to stop the virus in its tracks, sparing Fiji from the tragic loss of life seen in other nations. I ask you all, please keep the hundreds of thousands of families around the world who have lost loved ones to this pandemic in your prayers.

As of last Friday, Fiji is among the few countries on Earth with no active cases of COVID-19, and all of our patients have made full recoveries, a result that ranks as an all-time great Fijian achievement. But because this is a global pandemic, and the virus continues to rage around the world, we must continue to be vigilant – and keep the healthy habits that have been at the heart of Fiji’s success.

My friends, earlier this week, we marked World Oceans Day – an opportunity to recognise the immense value that our oceans provide to the vitality of our economy, our people, and our planet.

Fijians living in Namoli know this too well. As a seaside community, you have lived off the bounty of our seas for generations. But you’re also all too familiar with both the ocean’s immense potential and its power. And due to climate change, that power has been felt even more severely in recent years, putting your lives and livelihoods at risk.

You all can see this change with your own eyes, and science backs up the experiences you live every day. Information collected by satellites shows that, since 1993, sea levels in Fiji have risen by about six millimetres per year – about double the global average.

My government is committed to protecting Fijians from rising sea levels, all along our country’s more-than-1,100 kilometres of shoreline.

And that commitment is on full display here today in Namoli village. You are all too familiar with the damaging erosion that is threatening property in your community, and when I heard your plea for help, I knew we had to step in.

Your new seawall stretches across 440 metres of shoreline, and is built to a standard aimed at maximum protection from coastal erosion. The stone-masonry seawall structure includes a pitching drain with a culvert to protect Namoli village – an ambitious project that came in at a government investment of more than 700,000 dollars. But the peace of mind that it will provide is priceless.

The newly-completed seawall is a great example of human engineering, but all too often, that alone isn’t enough. That’s why this project will be complemented with what we call a “nature-based solution” – the planting of mangroves that will provide a first line of defence from coastal erosion and sea level rise. By tapping into nature, the future of Namoli will be more environmentally-friendly and more secure, helping both your people and the planet alike.

I thank the Ministry of Waterways for spearheading this initiative, and for the newfound security that it will grant your community for years to come.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you, and God bless.

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