Wednesday 7 October 2020: The Minister for Local Government Hon. Premila Kumar hosted a stakeholders meeting in Nadi on Monday 5 October, alongside the Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transports Hon. Faiyaz Koya and Minister for Infrastructure, Lands and Mineral Resources Hon. Jone Usamate to hear the concerns raised by Nadi stakeholders.
Hon. Kumar emphasised the important role cities and towns play in the life of communities.
“Many government services are filtered through the Municipal Councils to our local communities, the ratepayers and business people. It is important to note that there are a number of interagency issues that can be addressed by different Government Agency or Statutory Bodies. For example FRA can address the grievances relating to one way traffic in Nadi Town. There are overlapping responsibilities which requires collaboration with other institutions,” said Hon. Kumar.
An ongoing concern raised by business people in Nadi relates to the turning main town road in Nadi Town to one-way rather than two-way traffic since late 2018. The one-way option for traffic was always meant to ease traffic congestion. Since then, businesses in Nadi Town Centre have found a discernible reduction in business activity.
There were differing points of view raised by those present, with some stating that buses are now able to move much faster ensuring that school children and workers are able to reach work and school on time. Some were of view that the traffic congestion remained a major concern particularly because of the behavior of taxi operators, particularly out of town operators, who are driving slowly, holding up traffic by illegally picking up rides throughout the town. It was noted that the enforcement of taxi by-laws needed to be closely monitored.
Stakeholders also outlined how traffic issues were even more of a concern during times of flood and that additional options for car parking, both off street and on street, are urgently required.
The Minister for Infrastructure Hon. Usamate confirmed that the road issue was the responsibility of the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) and that they would be working on a solution that is lasting, effective and does not have unintended consequences.
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and Chair of the FRA, Mr. Ariff Ali was also in attendance and assured to work into the traffic flow issues as soon as possible. Mr. Ali reiterated that the focus was to alleviate the traffic congestion while balancing the other needs and interests of the impacted communities and businesses.
Hon. Koya in response to issues regarding taxi bases said that he would have more to say about this issue as he was currently working on a holistic and national solution relating to zonal taxis and base taxis to be announced shortly.
Elaborating on the taxi issue, Hon. Kumar outlined how there are different taxi base fees and systems in the cities and towns across Fiji. Any solution will have to factor in the significant income that is derived from the fees for Municipal Councils by renting prime land for taxi base.
The final issue raised was concerning the markets. Hon. Kumar confirmed that those selling produce from the footpaths will be invited to take up the available space at the Namaka Market. She expressed her concern that more people were selling from footpath instead of markets.
“The Government has spent considerable funds building fit-for-purpose markets which have adequate space for all market vendors,” stated Hon. Kumar.