Distinguished Guests;
Private Sector Representatives;
Government Officials;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today to share in this historic occasion for Kadavu and for maritime communities all throughout our islands – the official launch of Fiji’s first-ever self-contained mobile timber treatment plant.
Kadavu is now leading our nation as the first community to welcome such a project. Our first community that can shed the enormous difficulty that distance and geography have had on the sustainable development of our timber resources.

Over the next six months, this new treatment plant will be available to treat timber so that it can resist the decay from rot and insects that is caused over time– granting your timber an extended lifetime of up to 50 years. So from this day on, the treated timber you use to build your homes and your community will be more resilient and more valuable, and you will not have to draw as often upon your own forestry resources.

Living in a country of over 300 islands, there are some things we simply cannot change. Many of our people are separated by vast stretches of water– and that geographic reality can pose severe development challenges. That is why we must make special efforts to bring services, infrastructure and opportunity into our rural and maritime communities. That is why my Government is so committed to spreading development projects to every corner of Fiji, and that is why I am here today to launch this revolutionary new project.

Fiji is doing very well. For seven (7) straight years, our economy has grown; we have created unprecedented employment opportunities; and attracted record levels of investment. We have achieved so much success because my Government recognised a simple fact – a fact that went unnoticed far too long under Governments of the past. We recognised that the harder we work to bring our rural and maritime communities into the fold of our development, the better off every Fijian will be. The more Fijians we involve in everything we are achieving as a nation – whether they be in our outer islands or deep in our rural communities – the more prosperous Fiji will become.

That has been the secret to our success. And today, I again want you all to know how important you are to building up our nation. I want you to know that you have played a pivotal role in all we have accomplished, and you will be integral to everything we hope to achieve. I want you to know that we care, we care about your concerns, we care about what you have to offer our country and we care deeply about the opportunities we can create for you and for your children.

That effort and commitment to your future extends far beyond our own shores to our larger engagement with the world. I’m speaking, of course, of our global campaign to rally the international community to confront the reality of climate change.

I want to be clear, Fiji did not cause the crisis of climate change. The rising seas, droughts and storms we experience are a result of decades of pollution by larger, industrial nations. But that does not mean we cannot still do what we can to try and combat the effects of global warming.

This may not be common knowledge, but when we protect our trees and maintain our forests, we actually help clean our air. Trees naturally filter our atmosphere from the harmful toxins that are warming our planet and causing our seas to rise. So the more trees we have, the cleaner our air will be. And when this treatment plant extends the life of your timber, you won’t need to cut down as many of your trees to maintain your homes – and your forests can keep doing their job keeping our air clean, and our planet, safe.

Because it isn’t enough to simply tell those larger nations to clean up their act – we need to do the right thing as well. We need to live up to the standards and expectations we place on others. So you should all be very proud to say you are doing your part – no matter how small – to show the world how we in Fiji are helping protect our planet for generations to come. And once this treatment plant leaves your community, it will go on reducing the need to utilise timber resources for Fijians all throughout our islands.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the warm welcome you have afforded me and my delegation here amidst the stunning beauty of your community. While you may be far from the rest of our islands, you are no less a part of Fiji. Each and every one of you does more than you know to better our nation, and my Government will continue to find ways to better your lives as well.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.