Na Turaga na Tui Vuya, Ratu Ame Natave Rabona;
It is a real pleasure to join you today to commission Nabouwalu’s first-ever Fire Station.
Fires can cost a family or businessowner everything they own. In a few horrific hours –– or even minutes –– years of hard work can go up in smoke, as the victims powerlessly watch their homes or businesses go up in flames. Even more tragically, these disasters can claim lives. When we came into government, we knew the reach of fire-fighting services in Fiji was nowhere near where it needed to be. There was a severe shortage of access to emergency services for hundreds of thousands of people. So we did something about it.
Nabouwalu is now home to the twelfth Fire Station that my government has established since 2011, making for the 21st station in the country. Prior to that, only nine stations existed in Fiji. So in 11 years we’ve built more fire stations than were built throughout all of our independent history prior.
According to the National Fire Authority, from 2017 to 2021, the Authority has responded to 687 structural fires across the country. Our firefighters have saved lives and property. They made Fiji a safer country.
Until today, the closest Fire Station to Nabouwalu was the Seaqaqa Fire Station. 107 km away, it would take a Fire Truck almost two hours to respond to a fire in Nabouwalu. Two excruciating hours of waiting to stop a fire that likely already inflicted terrible harm. That was unacceptable.
Ladies and gentleman, government has invested about $1.35 million in this state of the art facility we see today. This two-vehicle station will now cater to Vuya, Nabouwalu, Wairiki, Nanave, Dawata, Nawaca, Qereqere, Vinirara, Raralevu, Namulomulo, Namau, Nukubalavu and Raviravi.
This includes 508 households; two service stations; the Fiji Pine chipping mill in Wairiki; the Nabouwalu Hospital; six schools; thirteen registered businesses; fourteen government departments and the Nabouwalu Wharf –– which is of course the main port of entry to the Northern Division.
My government is on a mission to ensure that every Fijian has access to the emergency services they need, because we are led by a core belief that nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our people. Every Fijian deserves reliable access to the help they need, when they need it most.
These services are also vital to the confidence we’re creating in the great potential of the Northern economy. When reliable government services are made available, economies thrive, because businesses want the assurance of such services, such as fire services, before they make investments. And when those investments come, it is our people and communities who reap the benefits through new jobs and higher returns on leases. And as we continue to build the Northern economy, my government sees our role clearly as a facilitator of growth and a builder of confidence to unlock more of the North’s potential. Our Attorney-General and Minister for Economy recently met with a World Bank team to develop a well-resourced and ambitious plan to make Vanua Levu a case study for sustainable development. Our plan includes a new airport that widens access to the North –– creating opportunities for sustainable tourism and in other sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. A team from the World Bank will be here on the ground in Vanua Levu soon to listen and work with the communities who will feel the benefits of this project, including here in Cakaudrove.
Aside from responding to emergencies, the Nabouwalu Fire Station will lead awareness sessions to educate citizens on how to prevent fires; what steps to take in the event of a fire; and how to keep yourself safe around fire.
I want to take a moment to congratulate all Northerners today. The NFA informed me that the Northern Division tends to record the lowest number of structural fires annually, even though the weather in this part of the country can be quite hot and dry.
I asked the NFA what they believed contributed to the lower number of fires in the North. They told me that fire statistics usually reflect important lifestyle choices made by the people in a particular community. So I commend you on the personal responsibility each of you take to keep your families and communities safe. You stand as an important example to the rest of Fiji.
I also want to share my deep gratitude to the National Fire Authority for being an integral part of government’s frontline personnel during the second COVID-19 outbreak.
Providing their full support to the Ministry of Health & Medical Services, they joined partner agencies in sanitizing public facilities; fumigating vehicles at the borders; providing ambulance services to Covid-positive patients; and other essential support to all Fijians.
I know the personal sacrifices that many of these officers had to make; leaving behind families as they worked non-stop to serve their country. It’s no exaggeration to call each of you heroes.
Before I finish ladies and gentlemen, I want to join my voice to that of the NFA’s today, in urging every Fijian to begin reviewing your personal fire safety plan – for your homes, and at work. Reach out to the NFA if you are unclear about anything. Please, do not wait for a tragedy to occur before you take action.
I extend my heartfelt good wishes once again to the Nabouwalu Fire Station team and to the people of Nabouwalu they will serve.
It is now my pleasure to declare the new Nabouwalu Fire Station officially open.
Vinaka vakalevu and thank you.