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Tourism on Rotuma
The following discussion was initiated from postings on a message board beginning in April 1998.
Anonymous [Coolie] (27 April 1998)
While we don't trust tourism in Rotuma, I believe there's a safe way of handling outsiders who want to come to our island and experience its beauty. My best shot is to allow families willing to play hosts the freedom to do so at their own expense. They should also be given the freedom to charge their guests for accommodation if they feel necessary, provided it's legal. Also, there should be a limited number of medically healthy guests allowed per family per year. On the other hand, these families should be held responsible in making sure that their guests abide by the laws and customs of the land.
Anonymous [G.I. Jane] (27 April 1998)
Good idea--all families hosting tourists should have a permit or a license. You never know what these tourists might bring to Rotuma, like drugs, porno, diseases, e.g. AIDS. Some of these tourists will be complete strangers to Rotuma.
Anonymous [TBAG] (28 April 1998)
Hear, hear, I agree. I am not an expert (I have never been to Rotuma) but I have family there and I think it's pretty scary to have 'investors' and the like targeting Rotuma for financial gain. It is definitely a decision for the community as to whether they want to get into this, and if so, it must be on their terms. I would hate to see some unsuspecting person or community get taken for a 'ride'.
Anonymous [suva boy] (28 April 1998)
I think that I have to agree with G.I. jane and say that you can get yourself into a lot of legal/cultural trouble if you make money out of tourism on a family scale.
Posted by Anonymous [Concerned Malhaha] (29 April 1998)
Although I think it will be a very good way of providing an income back home, there really is no foolproof way of going about it. Hence the idea has not been seriously taken up. We all know that no matter how careful one plans in the beginning, once the bucks start rolling in, who is to stop people developing their land for further profit. Also I think we should seriously consider the consequences on society as a whole, i.e. we are pretty strict with our ways and culture and many of the young are already starting to see things differently, and this could a threat to us. Also did any of you think that there might be the possibility of land disputes???? People might start stirring trouble! ( I'm not saying its gonna definitely happen but with a society that is quite close it is a possibility!?) There is also the matter of those things mentioned above, i.e. drugs, etc. because we are part of Fiji. Why don't we have customs inspection at the airport upon arrival, so they can check for this kind of thing? Although in an ideal world I would hate to see the exploitation of our lovely sandy beaches, natural beauty and people, I might be a little biased since I no longer live at home and want it to remain the way I remember it as a little girl. But I have been other places and have seen the effects of tourism. Anyone can put two and two together to come up with the fact that the idea is cool for the bucks and extremely BAD for our environment. After all we don't wanna turn out to be another Caribbean-like hotspot.
Tony Fletcher (6 May 1998)
To the people of Rotuma: My name is Tony Fletcher. I live in the N.W. corner of Arkansas U.S.A. I have been following your people and your island for several years now. I have never been to Rotuma, but have fallen in love with its culture and people. I have read many of your letters. I am writing you now because of your concerns with tourism in your tiny home land. I grew up in a small Ozark town with a population of 600 people. As I grew up I loved the place I lived in because of its natural beauty. Because of the wonders of my native land we now have many thousands of tourists stopping here each year and some are staying. My home is now exploding with unchecked growth. Although growth is good, we now have crimes here every day that may have occurred only once a year when I was a child. I say these things in hopes you will take care not to let tourism ruin your home. We Westerners did much to ruin the world in which you live as well as the world of the Native Americans here where I live. Try not to let this get out of hand. I would like much to come visit your island some day but not at the expense of leading to the end of your culture. For now I will be happy to visit you via internet (cheaper, and cause less impact!) Take care and thank you for letting me voice my opinion. Tony E. Fletcher III Bentonville, AR. U.S.A. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I believe approaches have been made to some land owners to build a hotel at Hapmafau. I am interested because I belong to several clans from both my paternal and maternal sides that own the lands stretching from Islepi to Hunsolo at Motusa. Frankly I am supportive of the moves made by cousin Pat Faktaufono and his group and wish them the best in the future.
However, my advice to him is to get the Rotuma Council and the respective clan members on side. The Council controls Rotuma and its members are aware that with globalisation, Rotuma needs to be developed to cater for the needs of the people. The Rotuma Council members are not unreasonable men and women. They see our environment as ever changing, but I believe foremost in their minds is the impact tourism will have on our inheritance and culture.
We need to study and learn from the Fijian experiences to avoid the pitfalls they encountered. We should take a balanced view, including a proactive approach to what's happening in the environment while making sure that our needs for sustenance are being met. Most of all, we need to make sure that we protect those aspects of our culture that we hold most dear.Thus, one of the first things I'd like to see happen is a feasibility study of the impact of tourism on the people and the island. I'd also like see a meeting held with the people of Denarau to learn of the controls they had in place before any building and tourism is allowed in Rotuma.
My family owns land in Rotuma stretching from Hapmafau to Motusa,
where the old Burns Philip general store used to be
in the late 60s to early 70s if my memory is correct. We have had our
land surveyed and pegged and I have possession of the documentation.
I haven't been back to the island for over 15 years now and am planning
to visit again.
Why is it not that surprising that it’s always the Rotuman Tourists who come up with schemes to exploit the land in the one place on God’s Green Earth that we, Real Rotumans, are very proud to call home away from home. I would like to be able to take my family to visit my homeland and not be bombarded by tourists just because some greedy Rotuman who lives in some adopted country decided that life on this paradise island should be changed for the Mighty Dollar. I am just amazed at all the schemes and plans being hatched all over the world by Rotuman Tourists to exploit and bring chaos and crime to our homeland where we can go and visit and not have to worry about anything.
Ask yourselves, Rotumans:
Unless you all understand the reasons why we Rotumans are the descendants and inheritors of that beautiful paradise, we will all be sorry and regret our decisions and actions. It will be like opening Pandoras Box.
My advice to Rotumans overseas: live your lives and be happy. If you have too much money to spend, think about the hospital and the schools on the island. You can never spend enough money when it comes to updating equipment and other technological items in these most important places. The hospital saves lives and the schools produce the future generations who understand the land better and protect the island from outsiders.
My family has a lot of land and I have lived overseas for most of my life. I have no desire to have a bunch of people who don’t understand the way of the land turn serenity into chaos. My hope is that Rotumans are wise and will protect and preserve the land for future generations. There is no such thing as "small scale" or "safe" tourism advocated by Rotumans who live overseas. NO TO TOURISM.
Response to H.F. Thompson by Selina
in Perth (16 April 2009)
'Otou kaunohoagta noh 'e Maragte'u, Noa' tau, Rotuma. Gou noh 'e Mereke 'e on 'i'i, ka gou 'inea se ma la faeag Rotuam. Gou la' se rako 'e Paptea, Malhaha, ma rak 'e Fiti.
You are correct Selina. Your land, your business. How big is the island?
I am, what you call "Old School". I grew up watching and learning how my father and family worked and lived off of the land. Family, neighbors, community and district working TOGETHER through good times and bad. Everything we do should always be for the good of the people and "country." People's lives were very dependent on the land and sea.
During those times there was always an abundance of everything because people worked hard. Those were the very best times of my growing up years.
In today's generation there is never enough." Its a new, scary
and very different world.
Faiaksia ma hanisiof.
In August 2004, I waded into the discussion about tourism on Rotuma
and put in my penny’s worth.
I am glad that Selina has revived the discussion and is contemplating
to establish a very small scale get-away hotel at the end of the year.
Basically it is a very good idea and the timing is ideal, given that
Rotuma is now an international port of entry, that Pacific Sun planned
regular flights to Rotuma going all the way to Tuvalu and Kiribati,
that monthly visits will be made by MV Niuvaga enroute to Tuvalu with
Rotuman taro, cassava and sweet potatoes and the significant development
plans for the island over the next two years. There are bound to be
tourists visiting the island in addition to Selina’s select clientele.
There’s been talk of home-based tourism, but according to my calculation
the venture is full of flaws and can be very costly. The initial capital
investment required to upgrade existing homes to an acceptable level
for tourists, including remedial work for kitchens, bathroom/toilets
and fly and mosquito proofing the doors and windows would be considerable.
Besides, there are the ongoing costs of providing three meals a day,
clean linens, as well as the auxiliary costs associated with the normal
running of a household. Anyone who has ever stayed at a hotel will
understand what I mean when I say that tourists don’t eat reheated
or left over meals, hence the extra cost and work involved.
Thus I’d suggest that Selina’s plan is the way to go, but if it is
any comfort to her I can relate what happened to the hotel mooted above.
The Council gave its blessing but left the matter to the investors
and land owners to deal with the ensuing issues.
Fiji Unit Trust and Marriott Hotels wanted to build a hotel with an
eighteen hole golf course at Hapmafau, which would require 15 acres
of prime land. Their plan was to build the hotel and upgrade the infrastructures
in Rotuma, including the airport, the hospital, roads, wharf, water
supply, the Motusa District School and the village utilities next to
the planned hotel before they start to bring the tourists in. Their
target market for the proposed hotel was rich Marriott clients who
just want to get away to a relaxing holiday far from the maddening
crowd on a secluded white sandy beach to enjoy a swim, a snorkel and
play a bit of golf before returning home. Money was not an issue with
these cash-rich investors.
Along with a doctoral student researcher from NZ who had consulted
with Dr Mario, I met with this particular clan member who stood in
the way of progress, employment, the development of Rotuma, and the
livelihood of the majority of the clan members (who voted yes for the
hotel) as well as future generations to come.
The reason for her objection was basically the same old narrow-minded
view of a traditional lay preacher—worried that tourism would erode
our fundamental values, tradition and culture. However, Rotuma has
long been influenced by videos, radio, Pacific Sky TV and by islanders
who have traveled overseas. Although tourists may wear revealing clothing,
have decorated belly buttons and weird hairdos, our own young girls
in Rotuma have adopted those trends without harm.
We weren’t able to persuade this woman, so I spoke to the elders of
the clan who were happy with the planned hotel and the perceived benefits,
but they were unwilling to pursue the matter in accordance with our
customary laws and the provisions of the Rotuma Lands Act requiring
I then wrote and advised Dr Mario with the options to:
I included a special note advising that any member of that clan who
left the matter as is, and in particular the family that raised the
objections, not be hired.
For I sincerely believe that if the hotel had gone ahead, Rotuma would
not be in such a predicament with the current air travel. Furthermore,
the benefits would have been massive for the residents of Motusa and
for Rotuma as whole if the hotel was built.
With most land in Rotuma owned by a clan, access is an issue to be
mindful of. I hope that Selina will take note and can avoid the pitfalls
and hassles that may delay her planned project. For I want Selina to
have a go and to succeed; thus this response.
To the people of Rotuma: My name is Gloria Eno. I am 18 years old and live in New Zealand. My mother is Rotuman. She comes from Lopta and I have been to Rotuma many times as a child and teenager.
I can't give you a view of growing up on Rotuma or living life the way Rotumans like. My mother did but I can honestly tell you I envy my mother's childhood on Rotuma and I can only hope when I have children they will experience some of the Rotuma that I have. My mum has told me and my brother so many stories. Opening Rotuma to tourism, money, corruption and greed could mean the Rotuma we all know and love may one day cease to exist.
Rotuma is everything to me. It’s a place in the world that I can go to get away from everything that I despise overseas. Rotuma is very special and unique in so many ways. I didn’t grow up with many island kids, and all of my friends who have listened to endless stories about Rotuma tell me how lucky I am to have a place like that in the world--a place where my children and grandchildren can go to see the simple beautiful things in life and be taught true Rotuman values and traditions, and they can learn more about living than kids who only know the modern world.
Henry Enasio refers to a narrow minded view. Well, in my opinion the youth of Rotuma are not influenced a fraction of the extent they could be by movies, music etc. I am a western teenager; I know, without a single doubt in my mind, that when and if Rotuman teens are exposed to the views, opinions, pressure and influences that western teenagers are you will know about it.
I know from first-hand experience what overseas teenagers are like, and I am sad to think that this could one day be what Rotuman kids will act like. If the western world were allowed full access to Rotuma this would be inevitable, and I am shocked some people don’t see this! I am friends with many Rotuman teenagers and the girls I have met on the island are nothing like overseas girls. They have respect for themselves and their family, discipline, and motivation to achieve and educate themselves. They work hard at all things and are not shallow-minded or worried by stupid things like $200 hair styles and $500 handbags. So I say thank you to the "reluctant member of the chiefly Farsau clan." I and the people of Rotuma owe you the world and I am so happy you realised the harm this decision would cause, even if others do not.
Rotuma made me who I am today. Spending time there while growing up taught me to be grateful for what I have and that money definitely can not buy you happiness, that you can never be too busy to be kind to people, that there's no enjoyment in having things if you can't share them and take time to breathe, talk and laugh. Most of all, Rotuma taught me about love--to love your family and your friends and be grateful for the time you have together. I fear that these values will change as more money and tourists come to Rotuma. If more money means that Rotuma will become more like overseas countries, then I hope Rotuma never says yes to tourism. I only hope future generations will learn what I have from Rotuma, and that they will have a place they can go to that is unlike any other. I truly believe Rotuma has this power to help you overcome troubles or sad times; its like Rotuma can heal your soul and I hope that it never loses that magic.
I enjoy modern conveniences as much as the next person and I enjoy staying in hotels, but I would be sad to see one on Rotuma. I look at Rotuma Island as paradise...in a way my paradise, even though it may sound selfish; I don’t want to share it with strangers. Not all tourists are bad of course! But how will we protect our island from the ones who are? It only takes a few minutes to think about what tourism and too many westerners have done to other places. I'm sure they, too, may have been paradises once upon a time, but with one bad move everything can change. Some tourists, when visiting Rotuma, will love and respect it for being so different and unspoiled, but others will see it only as an experience they have paid for. Those who see Rotuma in this way won't understand our ties to the land, or our respect for our ancestors who fought so hard to make Rotuma what it is. Our history lies in every single square metre of land. They will not honour the beliefs and traditions that our people have been taught since the beginning of time. And last but not least, they will not appreciate our simple love for each other and for our home.
Does anyone think the Aborigines are happy that their land and rights are gone and they are treated so horribly in their own homeland? Maori people in New Zealand are fighting every day for the right to have a say in their own country. I could go on and on about native people in their own countries who now suffer because their ancestors were momentarily blinded by money and the hope for a better, easier life, which turned out to cause pain, loss and suffering. Don't get me wrong. I understand that Rotumans wish to better their standard of living, and that they need money to do so. Yes, money will buy new things and can make life just that little bit easier, but will it be worth it in the long run? To risk losing your beautiful home for the chance that maybe you could live a little better? You don’t want to turn around one day and wonder where the Rotuma you used to know has gone, because by then it will be too late to get it back and our once isolated paradise will be just another resort island in the Pacific.
Surely in this information age there must be a lot of Rotumans who regularly access this website, not only to read but to enter into meaningful dialogues with different viewpoints. Hopefully we will be able to learn from each other.
In her recent contribution to the discussion of tourism in Rotuma, Gloria Eno wrote that she has been to Rotuma many times as a child and teenager and, I assume, is able to find love and comfort there (like many of us).
Perhaps Gloria would enlighten me as to when she last visited the island. I hope that it wasn't during the Christmas holidays, which might have shrouded her perception regarding the apparent abundance of food on the island. This abundance is short lived, lasting for about three weeks, whilst the islanders' struggle during the rest of the year to make ends meet.
I was born and brought up in Motusa, but now live at Ahau. I have
regularly traversed to and fro from Motusa to attend functions, including
village and district meetings. I participate in community activities
for the school, road construction and various cemetery cleanups, and
the Laje cleanups. I shop there and visit family and friends, and have
seen the hardship and struggles of the Motusans.
The proposed hotel by Marriot and the Fiji Unit Trust at Hapmafau would have gone a long way to address the hardships experienced in Motusa. It would not only have helped struggling families and future generations of Motusans, but the planned upgrade of the island's infrastructure would have been beneficial to all. But thanks to one objector these promises did not come to fruition and the consequences will reverberate for years to come.
Indeed I did say "the same old narrow-minded view of a traditional lay preacher" which I expand upon below. Meanwhile let me make these points:
Regarding my allusion to "the same old narrow-minded view of a traditional lay preacher." Well, I have already stated above that the traditional and moral guardians saw no problem with the proposed hotel.
For Gloria's info, most of my siblings have lived overseas in England, the US, NZ and Australia, and my immediate family in Australia. Thus I had the opportunity to live and travel in those countries and in Canada and Europe, but have yet to see and read about these countries being drastically influenced to their detriment by tourism.
Not all tourists are bad. Most are good, decent people. But like most things, there are the good and the bad. That's why we have our Council and traditional hierarchical leaders, besides the Government, to enforce our traditions and laws.
Perhaps Gloria may had seen, read or heard about an isolated incident that formed her opinion of tourism on Rotuma. But that does not necessarily mean, as Gloria says, that "Opening Rotuma to tourism, money, corruption and greed could mean the Rotuma we all know and love may one day cease to exist".
I have sons, nephews and nieces of Gloria's age and a little older and am well aware of "what overseas teenagers are like." But let me say this: many of our young people in the island are not backward and are comparable to those Gloria alludes to. For with the explosion of information technology and the travels of our youth to Fiji and overseas, they are well versed in the latest trends, dress codes, ipods, mobile phones, dance moves, parties etc., although on a relatively smaller scale. The tradition I knew when I was at Gloria's age is different from that in use today, for our tradition has evolved to embrace changes that come with contemporary times.
Gloria makes reference to the Maoris and the Australian Aborigines, who lost most of their land to colonial rulers. However, most of the land was lost by way of wars and treaties. Only a small percentage was lost because "their ancestors were momentarily blinded by money and the hope for a better, easier life, which turned out to cause pain, loss and suffering." Contrary to Gloria's assertion, hoteliers either lease land or buy freehold properties to build on.
Notwithstanding any thing I have said above, may I suggest for Gloria's peace of mind that she read The Rotuma Lands Act, especially the section relating to dealings. For since the Act's passage in 1959, sale of Rotuman land to a non-Rotuman is prohibited. This precludes any notion that our lands will be sold to prospecting hoteliers "for a better, easier life." Land for hotels can only be leased.
Bearing in mind Maslow's theory of self-actualisation, it's inconsiderate to ignore the majority's opinion, for they have actual and perceived needs that they aspire to fulfill.
Response to Henry Enasio and Gloria Eno
Henry, I thank you for your
response to my plans for establishing a “getaway holiday” in Rotuma.
May Rotuma be protected from 5 star international hotel brands,
My name is Carl Gilsenan. I have been following with great interest
the ongoing debate about tourism in Rotuma and thought I may have something
of value to add in response to Henry. I think it is also important
in these discussions to steer away from applying the values of good
and evil, and all their possible connotations, and try to concentrate
on what is of most benefit to Rotuma and her people.
It will be very difficult for the Council to say no to other villages desire for hotels. Why cant Itu‘muta have its own Sheraton, Pepjei its Hilton and Oinafa its very own Shangri-la?
A personal experience I had with unintended consequences happened in 2005 after not going back to Rotuma for a few years. With the advent of generators in all villages and subsequent electrification, I noticed a proliferation of TVs that were not present four years previous. With these TVs I noticed a decline in social interaction at night. Instead I saw people gathering around the glowing box to watch movies. I had fond memories of sitting around in the dark talking and joking with other people in the village, participating in an activity that helps to strengthen the ties that bind us. This seemed sadly in decline. Now I would be last person to say that electricity is a bad thing for Rotuma, but who would of thought that this development would contribute to a decline in social interaction.
I am not against development. I think it is a normal and healthy want
for any group of people to better themselves through development of
themselves or there resources. However, I think we need to be careful
that we are not tying ourselves to western models and indicators of
development and all the consequences that come with this. Instead Rotuma
should seek a form of development that is appropriate to its unique
position, through the prism of its own models and indicators.
I have written mostly about development in this essay as I believe that the discussion about tourism is a discussion about ways of encouraging development on Rotuma. Development and the changes that it brings can be widespread and far reaching. Therefore, erring on the side of caution is an important tool in careful decision-making. I personally quite like the approach of certain American Indian tribes to major decision-making that affects all in the community—what will be the effects of our decision on our people seven generations into the future? Will our children’s, children benefit from this decision?
Faiaksia ma hansiof.
I am overwhelmed by the responses to my postings on this issue, but
can categorically say that some of them are factually incorrect. They
are based on speculation, unfounded fear, ignorance of opportunities
Perhaps if I briefly cover some of these issues and revisit the pertinent
points from my previous postings I may be able to enlighten the opponents
of tourism in Rotuma.
Speculation is based on assumptions that are unsubstantiated. The fact
is no one knows what the future holds, except for God. And I don’t
believe that anyone can claim to know whether tourism will spoil Rotuma
without first giving it a trial. If the trial doesn’t work, then believe
me, the clan members will reconsider the issue. For nothing is set
in concrete and whatever is done can be amended or adjusted. But to
reject tourism outright, without any basis other than speculation,
is unwarranted and ignores the majority view of the clan members.
That tourism would be bad for Rotuma is only speculation because no
one knows what the future holds. And we’ll never know unless we try
it out and gain some first-hand experience. To base opinions on generalisations
and hearsay without the basic ingredient of first-hand experience is
The apprehension that the beauty and the pristine environment of Rotuma,
along with our culture, will be spoiled is unfounded and based on pure
speculation. There is also the implied ulterior motive that the island
should be maintained as a personal retreat for non-residents to get
away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Opponents of tourism have underestimated the will and farsightedness
of most of the landowners at Motusa. They imply that the landowners
would not do the right thing by all of us and would fail to look before
they leap--that they would sell us out as soon as the carrot is dangled
in front of them. But unbeknownst to the opponents of tourism, the
landowners had agreed to seek legal opinions first. They also agreed
to stipulate certain conditions for the hotel and their guests to abide
by, with the goal of augmenting our culture and traditions, as well
as preserving the beauty and the pristine ecology of the island. For
many of these landowners are traditionalists and are very concerned
about any deviation from Rotuman custom.
And should the majority landowners’ plan fail, there’s always the
Council, the Rotuma Act, the Rotuma Lands Act and our customary laws
to put a check on unwanted and detrimental behaviours that would erode
our culture and spoil the island.
Disregard for the Norm
Both our customary laws and the Rotuma Lands Act dictate that decisions
on land issues be by majority consensus. Unfortunately many don’t know
this or, contrary to the norm, they wouldn’t allow a minority to thwart
the majority consensus.
But thanks to continued education, we on the island are beginning
to wise up to such unwelcome bias and the bulldozing tactics of
the minority. Furthermore, it is my ardent belief that should a similar
proposal be flagged again in the future, opposition to it will not
rest at the clan level but with the courts, who can be expected to
vindicate the majority consensus.
I say this without a doubt, given what transpired between the Matamemea
clan and Vodafone Fiji where common sense prevailed, and one member
could not decide on behalf of the majority how clan land would be used.
Ignorance to Opportunities Lost
In the past, we in Rotuma could only dream of what might be. But with
globalisation and the proliferation of videos, we are able to vividly
see how our lives might be improved. What were once luxuries have become
necessities. We have also come to expect better services that only
come with a better infrastructure. An infrastructure that would include
a sewerage treatment plant for the proposed hotel was not only lost
to the Motusans but to the whole of Rotuma as a consequence of that
I’ve maintained all along that the effect of this objection will reverberate
for years to come on the opportunities lost for employment and an improved
infrastructure. That’s why the media highlighted Chief Maraf’s request
for the Government to conduct a session on how to combat poverty in
Lack of Financial Resources to Fund Alternatives
Certainly the imminent export of root crops to Tuvalu is an excellent
idea and will go a long way to help the islanders, with the potential
to increase their earnings. By how much is difficult to forecast due
to unknown factors associated with cost.
Access to funding is difficult for the majority in the island due to
lack of collateral and the fact that an unscrupulous few have spoiled
the chances for most of the islanders. They’ve defaulted on their loans,
giving us a bad name and making it difficult to be given one from the
Fiji Development Bank.
Furthermore, some of these business operators in Rotuma (and they
know who they are) are not necessarily operating the same venture that
they were in when borrowing from NBF, but they have used the same tactics
with the FDB. The FDB is the only bank that most islanders rely on
to be considered for a loan. But these operators defaulted and shirked
their responsibilities to repay their loans, which amounted to around
$120K, resulting in bad debts and the banishment of a Rotuman bank
manager. Also other ventures, such as fish and lobster fishing, coconut
oil processing, and coconut drying in Rotuma have failed, which makes
the bank even more wary.
I’ve mentioned these to highlight the difficulty in obtaining a loan
nowadays to upgrade a house for homestay tourism. Since the average
income is approximately $500 per annum, and most of the land in Rotuma
is clan land, it’s very difficult to use houses as collateral.
I have been inside and seen most of the houses on the island. When
homestay tourism was first mooted I did the sums on a standard upgrade.
These included the material (for the kitchen, bathroom, toilet, tiles,
doors and window screens, paint, nails, etc) freight, transport, labour,
the meals and grog involved in the construction and the overheads for
food, laundry, toiletries, and can safely state that homestay tourism
will incur thousands of dollars in debt. A break even in cost will
take years, let alone the hope of making a profit to repay any loans
That’s why I was very vocal in our district meetings for the locals
to be wary and to do their sums first before they commit. For the costs
involved are massive, as much as $20K. Such an amount is beyond most
of the islanders’ means, unless of course external sources with money
to spend is received. Of course no one has that type of money to spend
other than the banks.Furthermore proponents of homestay tourism in
Fiji want a twenty percent commission up front, leaving the operators
very little to cover expenses.
Hence I have no doubt that homestay tourism is not a viable option,
given the calculations I had made unless easy access to funding is
available. But bear in mind the the history of unpaid loans mentioned
above that precludes most islanders from getting a loan from the Fiji
Because of these problems, our district’s motion was carried in Council to indefinitely defer homestay tourism until the resourcing and the commission issues are resolved. But understand this--in no way have these issues precluded the possibility of homestay tourism in Rotuma; they have simply sent the matter back to the drawing board for reevaluation.
First I would like to thank Henry and all the others for their feedback on my posting; your views and opinions are much appreciated and Henry your information has made me aware of some things I did not know before.
In response to Henrys enquire as to when my time on Rotuma has been
I have met struggling families and some that don’t struggle as much, big houses, small houses, the shops when they are full and when they are empty. As I stated in my last posting I can not give you a view of someone that grew up on Rotuma but as Henry failed to understand I write my feelings and views from a NZ born half-Rotuman half-Kiwi teenager and I don’t expect to change or manipulate the decisions of others. I just wish to write how I feel and what I see and think about Rotuma and tourism.
I find it frustrating that people are wanting to make decisions for Rotuma when the sad truth is they won't even be around to witness the full impact of their decisions.
To say tourism might be okay on Rotuma and to admit we would only realise the true effects in the future is selfish and inconsiderate of the Rotuman youth of today.
Who will be around in the future to witness the real outcome of tourism if it is allowed on Rotuma? Not the people making the decision today but the youth of the island who will be left with the burden of a tainted home. I'm not saying it’s a definite outcome but if it does go horribly wrong only time will tell and the people who decided this fate for our beautiful island paradise will have long passed on, leaving us youth with an irreversible problem.
So I say, people think about your children, your youth, our future. And ask yourself, will you risk their home? Their life? Their roots? For what? To have these once luxuries now apparent necessities? No, you won't, and why? Because like me, you have faith in the Rotuman race and its people. We have survived this long by ourselves without resorts, backpackers, B&Bs, motels, hotels, etc. and we will carry on surviving long into the future. Our ancestors, our beliefs, our traditions, our land that was gifted to us by God himself, hard working Rotuman people, loyal and sharing family and friends, will get us through. All we need is people to see that and have faith in Rotuma.
I also would like to thank Carl Gilsenan for his factual input on the discussion and I fully agree with what he has said. It is great to see someone who shares this love and care for Rotuma and its people.
I want to thank Gloria for the details of her trips to Rotuma.
However, we must not forget that our customs dictate that decisions regarding the lands in Rotuma are by majority rule and the authority of the Council. Therefore we must not allow the minority to usurp authority over the majority consensus, as was the case with the land owners when a hotel was proposed at Motusa. This is a fact that’s been totally ignored by the opponents of tourism in Rotuma.
I have been harping about the lost opportunities of employment and infrastructure that will reverberate over many years. I have no doubt that the consequences will be widely felt by those of us who live on the island. What will the opponents of tourism give in return for those lost opportunities?
There are many possible cottage industries on Rotuma: fishing, sea weed, vanilla, turmeric, root crops, beef, pig farming, copra, coconut oil, desiccated coconut juice production, ice, ice cream, water bottling etc. Many of us on the island would like to venture into some of these industries but cannot for lack of money and the difficulty of getting a loan to fund such a business.
It’s easier said then done. If only Carl knew this, and about the
fiasco behind the Fiji Development Bank, which has virtually precluded
islanders from getting a loan, I am sure he’d have thought twice before
citing such costly alternatives.
I think the most costly alternative would be losing our home, our island, and our paradise, don’t you?
The fact that Rotuma is our most valuable asset is something that I hope all Rotumans realise. Rotuma's isolation, beauty and uniqueness is rare and precious, and we could lose all that.
Do you think that once you have handed over your land to foreigners it will give you the opportunity and funds to explore more costly alternatives?
Well, I wonder how long it would take one of the tourists staying at the Rotuma Hilton, who already has the funds, to buy land to establish their own fishing, seaweed, vanilla, turmeric, root crops, beef, pig farming, copra, coconut oil, desiccated coconut juice production, ice, ice cream, or water bottling company. And who is to say we won't give in again, especially if they are offering money with which we can have these once luxuries that are now apparent necessities? By giving into tourism you may get ahead a little faster, but is losing Rotuma the price you're willing to pay? And if so, is this not a selfish decision to make? My generation could suffer much more than you think Rotumans are suffering today.
I think as an opponent of tourism I am giving you a chance—a chance to stop a mistake before it happens, a chance for Rotumans to keep their home, and a chance for Rotuman youth to have access to the Rotuma my mother and many others had.
In Gloria’s response on 28 May 2009, she mentioned that we risk losing our beautiful home with tourism, whereas on 31 May 2009 I suggested for Gloria's peace of mind that she read The Rotuma Lands Act, especially the section relating to dealings, for since the Act's passage in 1959 the sale of Rotuman land to a non-Rotuman is prohibited.
But it’s apparent from Gloria’s last response that she has no idea of the law regarding land dealings in Rotuma. Therefore, to allay any unfounded fear with regard to Rotuma lands, allow me to say that besides our customs and the Council, we also have the Rotuma Lands Act. It’s imprinted in Chapter 138 of the Laws of Fiji and affords our lands extra protection.
Any changes to the Act will have to be by decree or a passage through Parliament. I have no doubt that the current review by the LRC will enhance and protect this relevant section of the Act, which will further safeguard the security of our lands. Any action contrary to this will definitely create a huge outcry amongst us. All indications are that the Government of day is keen on protecting our land rights too.
So perhaps it will be easier to quote the relevant section of the Rotuma Lands Act for Gloria’s reference to address the unfounded apprehension about us losing our lands to foreigners as a result of tourism in Rotuma.
Part 4 S15 (1)(2)(3)(4)
With this in mind I beg to differ from any suggestion that we’d be in danger of losing our lands as a result of tourism.
The last time I visited Rotuma was in 2002. The beauty of the island, the rich culture and the friendly people are just some of the memories I will always have.
Tourism on the island would be an industrial revolution so to speak, which I believe would do more harm than good. Widening roads means intruding on people's land. Cutting down vegetation means less protection from hurricanes, etc. Increased motor vehicles would mean more pollution. Petrol prices are already through the roof and the cost of maintaining vehicles is expensive. How are the people going to pay? Then there would be a need for more water, electricity, better telecommunications. The idea of everyone having a mobile phone is ridiculous. How would the people pay for them when they can't pay for electricity. Street lights are to be built for what purpose? The hundreds of cars and people? Most of the people rely on financial assistance from family overseas. Would not these added upgrades then cause more financial stress for these family members. The island is far too small for such developments. This modernization has already invited a laughable amount of police to the island. So who is paying for all these policeman to sit and do nothing? Have they been placed there for impending trouble thanks to tourism?
I believe that these decisions have been based on money. To think that this beautiful island of Rotuma and its people will benefit is preposterous. The money earned by the people will be taxed and businesses will fail because tourists will be the sole investors on the island,which would then mean more tourism. There is no such thing as small scale tourism. One only has to look at the affects of tourism on small nations to see the influence it has had on its people. Think of the people and the island of Rotuma before we jump to the conclusion that tourism and modernization will be a great investment.
My name is Luisa Turagabeci, and am part Rotuman and Fijian. With my Rotuman mum, I was brought up in Farema, Malhaha, Rotuma, until I was old enough, that I came to Suva, to further my studies.
I am of the opinion that the best way to learn is by first hand experience. As far as tourism is concerned, I’ve been to 10 different countries and have stayed in some very posh and some not so up-market hotels. I have stayed in 15 different hotels in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth in addition to 19 in Fiji and have had the opportunity to see and experience first hand what tourism is all about.
I therefore believe that I know a bit about tourism from those experiences and can advocate it for Rotuma as the way to go in the future, but in a regulated environment. Many countries are dependant on tourist dollars and Fiji is no exception. Tourism brings into Fiji much-needed foreign exchange and along with it benefits in the form of services, health, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, and transport. Tourism is the number one income earner for Fiji, bringing in much more than sugar now brings in. It has made a significant contribution to the Fiji’s foreign exchange reserves and hence to the economy, with reserves currently at just under 4 months of imports.
That’s why there’s so much money being spent on advertising to make Fiji a tourist destination of choice and so many hotels being built in the country. In addition are the cruise boats, taxis, coaches and mini buses to cater for tourists. All this says a lot about the importance of tourism to the country of which Rotuma is an integral part and has indirectly benefited from it.
If tourism is bad for indigenous cultures, as opponents make it out to be, then why did the far-sighted Fijian landowners and chiefs, and the various Governments of Fiji, allow so many hotels to be built and tourists to come to Fiji? When I look at the results of these developments, I believe that Indigenous Fijian customs and traditions are made stronger and more robust, not desecrated or denigrated by the advent of tourism. And I don’t believe that tourism is doing more harm than good in our country.Otherwise the Government and the people of Fiji would not have tolerated it but would have intervened ages ago to stop it.
By transposing the same argument to Rotuma, which is part and parcel of Fiji, how can tourism, as alleged by Makerite on 2/12/10, “do more harm than good”to our island and culture? Also isn’t money the essence of most things in life? Hence I see Makerite’s statements as out of touch with the realities of globalisation.
For as humans, we all live in the same world and breathe the same air, have similar hopes and needs, aspirations and dreams. These instincts keep us motivated, even if they are just dreams. For without these dreams for a better life style, progress would be slow and peoplebecome unmotivated and lethargic.
In simple economic terms, the residents of Rotuma want money to improve their lives. It’s that want for more and better that lies behind the remittances sent to the island by families in Fiji and overseas. But economics dictate that these are not enough to sustain all the family, school, community and religious obligations in the island. A good way to check out the lack of contentment felt by the people here is to visit the Post Office at Ahau. There, one will witness first hand the throng of people waiting for an opportunity to call their loved ones for an urgent remittance.
Hence the media cited Gagaj Maraf as having called for the Council to invite the Government Team on Poverty Alleviation to Rotuma. Therefore allow me to boldly state that given the current unemployment rate, tourism and home grown/cottage industries will provide the opportunities for the islanders to address and alleviate poverty, whereas businesses that are dependent on boats other than those sponsored by the Government, are bound to fail in the long run. There are plenty examples of this in Rotuma.
Tourism has helped to shape Fiji’s development and that includes Rotuma. And if anything is to be learned from it I’d say that it has made the indigenous culture stronger and more transparent. Tourism has enabled the ITaukei to proudly showcase their culture in kava ceremonies, dances, stories, village settings, handicrafts and artefacts.
All this made possible by the Fijians’ farsighted quest to preserve their heritage, culture and identity. They have made clear the dos and don’ts for tourists to abide by, and tour guides brief tourists of the requirements beforehand, which certainly helps to strengthen and perpetuate the Fijian culture. The same can be done for Rotuma. We, too, can allow tourism based on our culture and values.
Perhaps it’s fear of moving too fast that is inhibiting support for tourism in Rotuma. But we aren’t ignorant of the facts or so naive as to plunge full steam ahead without any legal advice regarding infringements and including an exit clause. If tourism doesn’t work as expected then there will be no arguments but to pull the pin. Then at least we’d have a basis to stand on other than mere speculation and hearsay.
Rather than be part of the solution, opponents of tourism seem unconcerned about people living in poverty, which results in our youths migrating to urban centres in Fiji to look for decent jobs only to be disappointed? Islanders need a financial alternative for the future to supplement their meagre resources. The funny thing is that the most vocal opponents of toruism are not residents of Rotuma. They rightly claim their precious Rotuman heritage but are oblivious to the daily toils that face the islanders.
As for Luisa, she needs to look at Deuba, which has several hotels in place although the beach is still one of the most popular and accessible places for the locals for a picnic and a swim, and so is Mosquito Island and Natadola beach. So, if we have the necessary controls and policies in place before tourism is allowed, why should our islanders miss out on the usage of our beautiful beaches in Rotuma because of tourism?
Makerite on 2/12/10 has portrayed a pessimistic view of the things that are already happening on the island as a result of contemporary changes in pursuit of a better life style. It is not tourism (which still has a long way to go) that is at issue, but globalisation and commitments made by Government to make Rotuma a better place to live, for the islanders. May I ask what’s wrong with wanting some of those things in the island? These developments have resulted in more employment opportunities and in thriving micro businesses that support a better lifestyle for many families.
So rather than depend on relatives for remittances why not help people on Rotuma realise their dreams through tourism and its associated industries, especially given limited job opportunities.
I dare say that ripples are already in the water for tourism in Rotuma. They will continue to expand and make headway with time as more residents contemplate their future and warm to the idea that tourism and cottage industries that are independent of boat schedules are the way to go for Rotuma, but with proper controls in place for the preservation of our culture, heritage and all that is dear to us.
Tourism on Rotuma indeed is a very delicate issue. Having read the different opinions of Makerite, Luisa and Henry Enasio regarding tourism on Rotuma, one can understand the concerns of each individual.
As a current employee in the travel & tourism industry as well as a past employee in the airline industry, I believe a majority of the population from the North, Central and South Pacific Islands have travelled the globe and experienced first hand the benefits of the tourist dollar, which has certainly made a significant contribution to each island nation's economy.
One only has to visit each Pacific Island nation to witness this fact and also note that yes, their culture and tradition is still practised and will still be in existence for as long as the people continue to instill their strong values from one generation to the next.
At this point, may I highlight the size of the island of Rotuma. For an island of only 43sq. kilometers one can understand the enormous impact tourism might make. The authorities would need to monitor the land area allocated for accommodating visitors so as not to deprive the current island population of their present land for agricultural purposes and places of residence.
Another important factor is that there needs to be honest and fair negotiations between the land owners, authorities and tenants when leasing land if tourism is given the green light for development in Rotuma. History has shown that such deals where tourism is thriving, the land owners have only benefited on a notably very small scale. Their land and location is of much more value.
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