iTaukei Landowners

The iTaukei and their Vanua

The TLTB at all times encourages landowner participation in major projects involving intensive investment both locally and offshore. It is common knowledge that when landowners are part of the development, the business usually proceeds smoothly without any risk what so ever of landowners dissatisfaction with the project purposes. We always welcome investors in tourism and other major projects who provide free for landowners in return for their goodwill and trust to allow development on their land.

Traditional Groupings

Vanua

  • A Vanua is an independent Kingdom of its own comprising one or several yavusa.
  • It’s head would exercise overlord authority over all yavusa within the Vanua and would be referred to by title as Tui (King), Vunivalu, Roko Tui, Sau.
  • Under the Colonial Administration, Vanua boundaries came to be defined also as Tikina or District administered under the Tikina and Provincial Administration.

Yavusa

  • A Yavusa is simply a collection of closely related families joined together or living closely together primarily for defence.
  • It had its beginnings in the Yavutu – the old village settlement established by the Kalou-vu(ancestoral god).
  • The Yavusa organisation came to be regarded as something pre-ordained, the leader being the closest by blood relation to the ancestor god – who is now conceived as the tribal chieftain.
  • Yavusa settlements came to be known as a village and is headed by a Turaga ni Koro who is employed by the Provincial Administration.

Mataqali

  • composed of those Agricultural family groups that lived in close proximity and were related to each other by ties of marriage.
  • Evolution of a series of separate units of population, each bearing a distinctive name and performing separate functions in the Yavusa – functions that were strictly hereditary and not inter-changeable such as the Chief ( Turaga), Executive Chiefs (Sau Turaga), heralds (Matanivanua), Priests (Bete), Warriors (Bati), Fisherman (Gonedau), Craftsman (Mataisau) etc.
  • These divisions became known as Mataqali, a word which is common in all dialects in Fiji.

Tokatoka

  • A division of the Mataqali into two or more tokatokas or family divisions.
  • known under its own name and had a headman who was under the immediate orders of the head of the Mataqali.
  • the unit of service.
  • In Mataqali meetings these groups would be delegated with duties allotted to and also contributions required from its head unit – the Mataqali.

Structure of iTaukei Land

The iTaukei owns native land in their collective groupings according to custom and tradition as follows:

  • Land owned by titular heads of tribes e.g. Chief who for the time being holds the hereditary title of the Na Ka Levu;
  • Land owned by agnate descendants of a member of a tribe – qele ni kawa;
  • Land owned by a tokatoka (family unit). This ownership style is widely used in the province of Ba;
  • Land owned by the mataqali (clan);
  • Land owned by the yavusa (tribe); and,
  • Land jointly owned by several yavusa.

The various iTaukei Land & Fisheries Commissions (TLFC) appointed under the provisions of the iTaukei Land Act (TLA) have defined ownership boundaries on the ground. In most cases, these boundaries have been surveyed.

Ownership Records

A record of the members of each of these landowning units is kept by the TLFC in accordance with the provisions of the iTaukei Land Act.

Interests of the Landowners

The interests of each member of the landowning unit is similar but not equal to the interests of individual freeholders in as far as ownership is concerned. While rights associated with ownership is enjoyed by members, any members of the landowning unit cannot dispose of, transfer or assign such right to anyone of his choice. A member’s right of ownership is in reality a collective life interest rather than an individual interest in perpetuity as enjoyed by freeholders. However, as a collective group, the landowning unit has interests in perpetuity subject only to the unit becoming extinct.

Rights of the Landowners

The rights of owners of Fijian land over the parcels of iTaukei land allocated to the members are equal to rights of owners of freeholders. These include the following, to name a few important points:

  • the right to occupy their land;
  • the right to use their own land for their maintenance or support;
  • the right to lease land to others and determine the terms and conditions of such leases acceptable towilling lessee;
  • the right of reversion, after the lease is determined at the end of its term.

In summary, the members of the landowning unit have the right to control and administer their own land. The iTaukei landowner enjoyed these rights until 1940 when the iTaukei Land Trust Act was enacted.

Protection of the Landowners Rights TLTA

Under the iTaukei Land Trust Act (TLTA formerly known as NLTA or the Native Land Trust Act), the iTaukei landowners have surrendered their rights to control and administer their own land and vested these in the Board of Trustees of the iTaukei Land Trust Board to control and administer their land on their behalf. However, to ensure that their rights are protected, under the provisions of the Act, the iTaukei Land Trust Act has included safety provisions. For example;

  • The Board is charged with a duty to control and administer their land for their benefit. This means that the Board in controlling and administering the iTaukei land must not make decisions that are detrimental to the interests and benefits of the landowning unit.
  • The Board is not empowered to sell native land outright, except to the State but that the land that is the subject of such a sale would be used solely for public purpose.
  • The Board is not empowered to deal with native land except as provided for under the provisions of the iTaukei Land Trust Act. Section 7 provides that no native land shall be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of and no licence in respect of native land granted save under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
  • For iTaukei land outside reserve, subject to the provisions of s.9, s.8 empowers the Board to grant leases and licences and renewals as may be prescribed by the Board.
  • Section 9 prohibits the Board from granting a lease or licence over Itaukei land outside reserve, which is beneficially occupied by the Itaukei owners. And prohibits the Board from granting a lease or licence over the iTaukei land outside native reserve unless the Board is satisfied that such land will not be required by the Fijian owners for their own use, maintenance or support during the term of the proposed lease or licence.
  • All leases granted must be surveyed and registered in the Register of iTaukei Leases kept by the Registrar of Titles.
  • The consent to any dealing shall be at the absolute discretion of the Board and any dealing without the consent of the Board shall be invalid.

The above are powers and prohibitions which are contained in the provisions of the iTaukei Land Trust Act in as far as the control and administration of Fijian land outside native or iTaukei reserve vested in the Board. In other words, the above provisions contain the terms and conditions of a Land Management contract between the iTaukei landowner and the Board for the right to control and administer communally owned Fijian land.

Distribution of Rents and Premiums

After deduction of any sums in accordance with section 14 of the Act, the balance of any monies received by the board by the way of rents and premiums in respect of the iTaukei land shall be distributed by the board to all the appointed trsutees of each proprietary unit (mataqali or yavusa) as set out in the new iTaukei Land Trust (Leases and Licenses) Regulations that stipulates: After deductions of any sums in accordance with section 14 of the Act, the balance of any monies received by the Board by way of rents and premiums in respect of iTaukei, including any monies received by the Board but not yet distributed to date of commencement of the iTaukei Land Trust (Leases and Licenses) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, shall be distributed by the Board to all living members of the proprietary unit, in equal proportion.

Now all lease monies, received or held by TLTB, will be distributed equally between all, including chiefs (Turaga iTaukei/Turaga ni Qali/Turaga ni Mataqali) and all the other living members of each landowning units from 1st January 2011.