THE 999 YEAR LEASE AT TOKO, TAVUA

The iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) wishes to inform the general public and in particular the landowners and tenants of the 999-years Toko lease in Tavua that a taskforce has been formed to look into the matter due to the technical complexity of the case. TLTB has also been heavily criticised by both the landowners and the media because of it and is trying its best to solve the issue once and for all.

The opportunity to address this infamous lease is to consider it in line with Section 29(4) of the 2013 Constitution of Fiji on protection of ownership and interests in land whereby TLTB must satisfactorily consider the following factors:

(a)      Secure the rights and interest of existing lessee and tenancies.

(b)     Ensure equitable return to iTaukei landowners.

(c)      Enhance security to tenancies, sub-tenancies and sub-sub tenancies under clear statute jurisdiction.

(d)      Provide lease terms and conditions that are just, fair and reasonable.

Furthermore, TLTB must approach this matter under the guidance of the principles espoused in the 2013 Constitution under Section 3(1) and the interpretation of the Bill of Rights under Section 7(1) and (2).

Background

The original 999 years Toko lease was issued to Eva Annie Eston and Harold James Thomas an area of 701 acres effective from 15th November 1902. The lease was to be used for agricultural purposes and was co-owned by two land owning units of Mataqali Tilivasewa (Tavua) whose share totalled 471 acres and Mataqali Navusabalavu with 230 acres. The subject property was assigned a Deposit Plan number 1204 for a rent of Ninety Four Pounds and Seven Shillings which is equivalent to $188.70 when iTaukei Land was administered by the Commission of Lands in pre-independence Fiji.

There were twenty six (26) subleases for terms of 966 years issued between 25th August 1941 to 27th October 1944. The Lease was transferred to the Native Land Trust Board to administer on 12th May 1920 (Dealing No. 113139). Of the 26 subleases, the sub-tenants had sublet their sublease to individuals under private arrangements.

The Toko lease have been mired with all sorts of problems including the statutory jurisdiction on the 999-years term, its sublease and the enforcement of its terms and conditions.

Toko Taskforce Committee (TTC)

The TLTB Board of Trustees chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister, Josaia V Bainimarama in his capacity as Minister for iTaukei Affairs has directed for the formation of a taskforce team comprising of relevant agencies & stakeholders to look into this outstanding unresolved matter.

The objective of the taskforce is to complete the tasks on consultations with the occupiers of Toko; conduct an inventory on existing improvements; get additional information from occupants & confirm occupation boundaries.

The taskforce will also conduct an in-depth analysis of the lease involving the sub-leases and sub-sub-leases incorporating private arrangement and in consultation with the (head lease, sub lease and sub-sub-lease tenants) with the landowners affected. TLTB has also completed Phase 1 of their work including inspection and consultation on the ground. It must be categorically stated that the Toko 999 year lease is a complex case and all efforts will be taken by the Taskforce to resolve and address it in a systematic manner with no eviction.