The National Trust of Fiji (NTF), a statutory body funded jointly by the Fiji Government, independent donors and multi-lateral projects, was established in 1970 to provide for the protection of Fiji’s natural, cultural and national heritage. It is the only National Trust of the South Pacific region and Specializes in both the natural and cultural aspects of heritage conservation.
Over 50% of our plants and birds and over 90% of some insect groups and marine insects are endemic to Fiji. We have a responsibility to protect endangered native wildlife species, and to accept community heritage. In recent years the National Trust has taken on the added responsibility of conservation education raising much needed awareness on some of the island’s disappearing wildlife and cultural values.
Fiji’s Forests roughly make up half the total land area of the island which is quite significant considering that the island’s land mass is only 3.6 million acres. Most of these forest areas are strictly managed for their watershed protection purposes while others are managed for commercial purposes – contributing to the economy. Economic pressures, population growth and the expansion of towns and cities are infringing on the survival of the remaining small percentage of natural forest left. The economic, cultural and natural values of forests are enormous and we cannot afford to discover the implications if this resource is lost or gone.
The core issue for the NTF Protected Areas management, revolves around meeting the demands of resident communities that utilize resources within or adjacent to the designated area. Frequently, local demands for resource use conflict with other goals to conserve resources for visitor enjoyment or biological integrity. More often than not, this has led to conflicts in these protected areas which are detrimental to development and conservation.
The NTF currently protects a total of 14 heritage sites within the Fiji islands. Of these 14 sites, five are natural and four are cultural, while the remaining five are community conservation projects facilitated by the NTF. The legislative mandate for the NTF lies with the
- National Trust Act (Cap 265) of 1978 NTF Act Cap 265
- Fiji Government’s National Heritage Policy in 1996
- National Trust Amendment Act of 1998 NTF Amendment Act
In 1999, with the establishment of the Department of Culture and Heritage, the NTF, together with the Fiji Museum and the Fiji Arts Council, became key organisations for the newly formed department. The Department was then under the portfolio of the Minister for Women, Culture and Social Welfare. In September 2001, the department was moved under the portfolio of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Heritage, and Civil Aviation. However in August 2002 the department was moved again to the Ministry of Fijians Affairs. This partnership remained until January 2008 when the department was again moved under the portfolio of the Minister for Education, where it currently remains.
The NTF is governed by a Council elected by the Minister for whichever Ministry it belongs to. In 2009, Council Members for the NTF are as follows:
- Mr. Radike Qereqeretabua – Chairman
- Dr. Robin Yarrow – Vice-Chair
- Professor William Aalbersberg
- Mr. Sevania Tabua
- Mr. Filipe Jitoko (Permanent Secretary, MInistry for Education)
The NTF has a very broad approach in its attempt to protect Fiji’s heritage. Its projects involve a wide range of activities, including heritage conservation, biodiversity conservation, scientifically based experiments, people-focused and culturally sensitive surveys, economically sound initiatives and strategic partnerships with other organizations and communities. The NTF also has a strong emphasis on conservation work in Fiji. This involves working with resource owners under customary ownership, community-led resource management, resource-use planning and zoning (Govt.), conservation “without boundaries” and small scale “building blocks” conservation.