What is the TLTB and what is its primary role?
TLTB (formerly NLTB) is a statutory body established in 1940 to control and administe itaukei lands on behalf and for its owners, namely: the Yavusas, Mataqalis and Tokatokas. It is also a statutory Trust that deals with itaukei lands by way of leases and licences issued over such lands. It is the largest and best land provider and lands services corporate entity in Fiji. It facilitates access to lands and land-based resources for social and economic development and growth. It is doing all this for the national good and public interests but particularly for the benefit of the itaukei landowners. TLTB has the mandate to control itaukei lands for the benefit of its owners.
TLTB has four major core roles which are specified in its legal framework: to control and manage itaukei lands by way of leases and licences; to collect and distribute premiums and rents derived from leased l and; to ensure that sufficient lands are “reserved” for the use, maintenance and support of its owners and to control and manage extinct mataqali lands, as well as to monitor compliance with leases and licences conditions. Before itaukei lands can be leased, ownership must be decided and this is the function and role of the iTaukei Land Commission which also keeps and maintains a register of itaukei owners(i Vola ni Kawa Bula). TLTB works closely with TLC in administering its Lease Administration portfolios
In relation to the itaukei landowners, how has the TLTB helped them?
TLTB issues leases, licences (interests over land) in return for a premium or rent or both, and royalty for land based resources. These funds are collected and distributed to itaukei owners after statutory and other deductions are made. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 Trust Funds distributed amount to $40 million annually(Average). TLTB provides professional services relevant to Lease Administration. The services are provided by a well qualified and experienced team of professionals consisting of Land and Estate Management experts, Land Use Planners, Valuers, Accountants (including an Investment Officer and Internal Auditor), Administrators, Managers, and Lawyers and a pool of dedicated support staff.TLTB provides counseling and advisory services on the best use of itaukei lands;land valuation and negotiates major development leases and leases generally for and on behalf of the landowners. It also represents the landowners in various Forums, Committees, Boards, Provincial and Tikina Councils and meetings with stakeholders.
What are some of the challenges that the former NLTB faced over the years?
Challenges faced over the years include the need to review and reform the legal framework governing TLTB (the Act and Regulations); need to capture the essence of involving itaukei landowners as real and meaningful participants in national economic development; ensuring the “value added” benefits of being owners; involvement of itaukeis as partners in major Tourism and other developments. Rent arrears accumulation posed real challenges. The need to create awareness and acceptance of the need to invest and grow landowners funds as against the consumption mentality continues to be addressed. Lack of qualified Financial (Trust) and Investment advisors. Monitoring and proper Audit of Funds was a major issue.
How has the TLTB handled those challenges?
Through proper planning and the agreement on a clear Vision and Mission Statements for the TLTB. This is very important as they translate into a rolling Strategic Corporate Plan with clear goals and objectives, Key Performance Indicators and Performance Measures to ensure that targets are set, monitored and achieved. If not achieved, it is important to identify why not? This goes with a Performance Management System (PMS) that applies throughout the Board. Periodic reviews are carried out and an Annual Strategic Planning Workshop is held yearly to review the past 12 month’s performance and plan for the next 12 months. TLTB ensures that a fair and just reward is given for the efforts put in by the staff. There has been a number of major reviews of systems, procedures and processes to ensure the effective delivery of al services; accountability and transparency. Periodic reports are tabled at the Board level and there are also monitoring and scrutiny of Management work at the Board’s Standing Committee Meeting and the Meeting of the Finance and Investment Committee.
What are some of the concerns that landowners have raised with the TLTB? And how have these concerns been met?
Generally, there are landowners’ concerns over the management of Trust Funds and the distribution of premiums and rents to them. Disclosure of information about their land, leases and their financial statements. They also want a greater say and role in the leasing of their land. They want to lease their land themselves. Some want their lands returned. These are being addressed in various ways.
Reviews are carried out to streamline Trust Funds Management and make this more transparent. TLTB now has a qualified Investment Officer and an Internal Auditor and these appointments have helped in the investment of Trust Funds and monitoring of Financial and Operational Systems. Reforms in rent distribution
poses a challenge but there is a machinery by the Deed of Trust nationwide to take care of that. There is now more openness in the governance and management of itaukei lands and access to information including statements of Accounts for the landowning units
Lately there were concerns by TLTB over late rentals? What is the situation like?
Accumulation of arrears of rent is a major problem. It has been there for as long as I can recall. At the beginning of 2011 it was at $24 million, now it has dropped by about $8.0 million to $16 million approximately. TLTB believes that new additional strategies are needed with the help of major Sector and Industry Leaders, and the Government through legislative intervention.
Does TLTB have a plan on recovery and what it can do to help the situation?
Yes. There are strategies and they are being implemented and monitored. TLTB is doing all it can. The tenants need to take responsibility for arrears of rent on their leases. Tenants have a legal responsibility to pay rent. TLTB is also proposing that the major Sectors of our Economy adopt a Sectorial approach to the issues especially in the Agriculture (Sugar Industry) and Tourism Sectors. TLTB will be discussing the proposal with Sector Heads and Permanent Secretaries to ensure that landowners’ issues (particularly the payment of rent) are mainstreamed and reflected in policies and awareness programmes for Sectors and Industries alike.
How does TLTB plan to take the Board forward?
TLTB has developed strategies based on its core roles; national priorities and stakeholders expectation and clearly prioritized these and incorporated these in its rolling Strategic Corporate Plan 2011 – 2014. The Plan is the outcome of a Strategic Corporate Planning Workshop held annually and is holistic and practical with set performance targets for each major Key are as:the Financial Targets (both Operations & Trust Funds); Human Resources, Enforcement & Compliance and Operational targets which links in with the Financial targets. A Budget isapproved by the Board for these purposes.
TLTB’s Plan takes account of the existing laws; the Charter (Pillar 6) and the expectations of the itaukei landowners. A lot of balancing of interests are taking place to ensure that all of the stakeholders’ interests are given due consideration.
The plan supports and facilitates landowners’ participation in business and in the economic life in Fiji, Supports Government’s programmes and initiatives; promotes accessibility to itaukei lands for housing, commerce and other developments with premium and rent levied to match. TLTB promotes the better utilization of land and use of unused land for economic and productive purposes. TLTB is s crucial member of the Committee for Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL) at National and Regional levels. TLTB is an important member of the Investment Fiji Board, FSC Board and other Forums and Committees. TLTB has been proactive and facilitative in providing the lands needs of most if not all Sectors of Fiji’s economy. It has also revised its Estate Officers Manual (EOM) to streamline its processes and reduce the timelines for the delivery of its services. TLTB has changed its IT System to Landsoft which supports the Lease Administration functions.
What changes have been done so far to better servics?
Introduction of clear policy on distribution of rents in Trust Accounts in Financial Banks in Fiji. Payments to the landowners are now on a monthly basis. Registration of Deed of Trusts for the operation of their Bank Accounts and decision making over land based resources. Payment and acceptance of “goodwill” has been eradicated. Rents and premium proceeds are distributed equally. Annual Accounts (2006 – 2008) have been audited and will be published shortly. The 2009-2010 Accounts are being prepared.
TLTB had carried out a Review on Systems; Processes; Procedures; Organisation Structure; Terms & Conditions of Service; IT Systems and Fees and Charges. Recommendations on Implementation Plans are put in place for execution and monitoring. These are useful reforms which are already contributing to a changed and vibrant work environment conducive to effective delivery of services.
Why have these changes been made?
Changes made are in response to the environment under which TLTB operates and the greater need for TLTB to be equipped, competent and ready to deliver its “core” role and responsibilities in line with the expectations of the stakeholder (its clients and tenants) and its beneficiaries the itaukei landowners. It is also in the interests of efficiency, effective service delivery, accountability and transparency.
With the Land Bank and Land Use Commission set up, how has that affected TLTB?
TLTB is supportive of the establishment of the LandBank and Land Use Unit in accordance with their stated purposes and objectives. The landowners’ interests are paramount and it is their decision (consent) that is a pre-requisite to their land being administered under the Land Use Decree after designation. The itaukei owners have a choice and an option. TLTB facilitates the exchange of information with the Land Use Unit. TLTB views the Unit from two fronts, both as a “partner” and a “competitor” in the provision and supply of land products and interests. It has helped TLTB to strategise appropriately and re-focus on its statutory core roles. It has emerged as a catalyst for better services delivery and a motivator for a more enthused and dedicated workforce.
What else does the TLTB want to share with readers and clients?
TLTB has contributed substantially to Fiji in National Social and Economic development from the Colonial times; pre-Independence and post-Independent Fiji. TLTB has had its fair share of criticisms and these are taken as challenges which are to be considered and addressed.
iTaukeilands have accommodated all sorts of uses and users (Agriculture, Hotels, Factory, Educational Institutions, Settlements and Villages, Hydro Electricity Dams,Pine & Forest Plantations). TLTB’s immense contribution to Nation Building in Fijiin the past 70 years and now cannot be matched or surpassed. TLTB is a unique organization. Other indigenous communities’ worldwide have studied its structures, processes and mechanisms for lease administration relevant to traditional and customary lands. In 2010 and 2011 Fiji’s neighbours the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia had shown interest to visit TLTB to learn from it, to assist them in devising their own systems of administration of their traditional and customary lands. TLTB will continue to be the largest, best and most effective provider of land and land products and services in Fiji in the years ahead.