Momo na Tui Lawa,
Bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today in Solevu Village with the islanders of Malolo to commission this rural water project that will supply you all with an uninterrupted flow of clean water.

For many years, Solevu’s maritime geography has left your village isolated and vulnerable to water shortages, especially in the dry seasons. This hardship has worsened over the past two years, as we have faced especially severe drought conditions in our Western Division.

The reality is, due to the pollution of greenhouse gas emissions by larger, developed nations, our climate is changing for the worse. And in Fiji, the experts tell us we will be facing even longer and more frequent periods of drought as time goes on.

To allow the people of Solevu to remain dependent on outside sources for water when we are facing such dramatic realities of climate change is not a future my Government is willing to tolerate. It would not be responsible for us to allow your situation to remain unaddressed knowing what is to come. Knowing that the threat of prolonged droughts is ever increasing.

We are fighting an aggressive campaign abroad to alert the world to our peril and stop the irresponsible behaviour of developed nations. But there are adaptation measures that we must take back home as well. This rural water project will help your village adapt to our changing climate by bringing a reliable and safe source of water directly to your village.

My Government has financed this project because water is the single most precious building block to development. We cannot sustain life without it, we cannot sustain communities without it. But when communities have ample water, they thrive. Their health, their farming, their economy all can steadily improve when water is readily available.

Indeed, the Fijian Constitution enshrines the right to clean water access for every Fijian, mandating that Government work to give every person adequate access to safe, quality water. That is a mandate my Government is continually working to meet through the Water Authority of Fiji. In the upcoming fiscal year, WAF has been allocated just over $300 million. And that allocation sets Fiji up for a secure water future, with the vast majority dedicated to capital projects – including the construction of new water sources and treatment plants, and the expansion of water distribution systems all over Fiji. It is an ambitious strategy covering rural, urban and peri-urban areas alike, but it is one that my Government is dedicated to pursuing because of the significant role reliable water access plays in economic development.

The construction of this water project has cost $198,300 and it is an investment we are happy to make, because from clean water flow many benefits that keep us more productive and more resilient to environmental hardships.

This project will service 130 households on the island and end the expensive, unreliable system of water carting. A system that, frankly, limited the possibilities of the people of Solevu. Without access to clean water, we can’t stay healthy and hydrated throughout the day. We can’t keep ourselves clean and maintain sanitary homes and schools. And we waste valuable time searching for water sources, or in the case of Solevu, waiting for water to arrive from the mainland. But today, that has all come to end. Today, we can all celebrate as your village receives an enormous boost towards securing a healthier and happier future.

My Government has again and again made the extension of essential services to our rural and maritime regions a top priority. It is my Government’s job to come to you. It is my Government’s job to deliver development, infrastructure and services so that you can enjoy the same quality of life as any Fijian living on Viti Levu. And – as evidenced by this new water project – that is a responsibility we welcome and intend to meet.

My fellow Fijians,
Thank you for welcoming me into your village and for the traditional ceremonies of welcome you have afforded me. It is a privilege to be among you all, especially on day like today when my Government can officially open a water project that will service Solevu for many years to come.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.