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No illegal extraction of gravel: Vosarogo

The Ministry of Lands has clarified that a river gravel license was approved by the office of the Director of Lands to Yavusa Solia Trust on 28th September 2022 for 12 months.

In a statement, the Minister Responsible for Lands Filimoni Vosarogo said that the license covers part of the Waimanu River and it was issued after the Yavusa Solia Trust had fulfilled all the requirements.

Vosarogo said it must be noted that Mataqali Solia is part of the Yavusa Solia and their Trust.

He said the same license was registered on 12th October 2022 at the office of the Registrar of Titles and upon expiry of the same, the Yavusa Solia Trust applied for an extension of its license on 6th October 2023 for one month to compensate for the one month taken by the Registrar of Titles (ROT) in registering the license past the effective date.

Vosarogo said approval was granted by the Director of Lands and the extension was for 1 month with effect 17th October 2023 and the Turaga ni Mataqali (TNM), Sekove Ulumira Soronakadavu addressed a complaint to the Lands Department regarding a breach of the Deed of Trust, the non-holding of an AGM by the Yavusa Solia Trust, and the extension of the license by one month.

A meeting was called by the Minister to ascertain the issue brought up by the TNM regarding the 1-month extension.

Both the Turaga ni Mataqali and the Yavusa Solia trustees were advised on 5th April that a meeting would be held on 8th April to discuss the issue raised by the TNM.

Vosarogo said only trustee members and some LOUs under the Yavusa Solia were present at the meeting on the 8th of April, whereas the Facebook complainant, Sekove Ulumara Soronakadavu, did not attend the meeting despite being notified early on April 5th.

In this meeting, the Minister’s approval was granted for the removal of the extracted materials from the stockpile area to the Yavusa Solia Trust from the 9th of this month.

Contrary to the claim by the Turaga ni Mataqali Solia, Sekove Soronakadavu, there was no illegal extraction.

He said in this case, the Trust was approved to remove stockpiles extracted during the license period and stockpiles should not be redundant and unused since the Trust pays monies based on how much is extracted and sold.

The Minister said should there be any differences between the Yavusa Solia Trust and the Mataqali Solia on Yavusa Trust AGMs or monies distributed, the Land Department will not be involved as these are matters between the Trust members.

“The disagreements of the Yavusa Solia Trust members cannot be used by the Department as a determining factor in making its decisions for the issuance of licenses.”

“The Department relies on the requirements listed in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and the powers vested with the Director of Lands through the Rivers and Streams Act.”

After the 8th of April meeting, a one-month extension was approved for removal of the stockpile, not extraction as claimed. The 1-month approval was given on the following grounds:

– Removal of all remaining stockpiles, within one month and no further extension will be granted.

– Ensure no environmental damage is done in the cause of the removal.

Vosarogo said Yavusa Solia Trust can lodge its application for renewal of its extraction license if it wishes to continue extracting as the extraction term has expired.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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