Kiribati buying up land in Fiji

Last updated 15:54 04/02/2013

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Kiribati, a scattered Pacific nation severely damaged by over-crowding and the impact of sea-level rise, has announced it is buying up land in Fiji.

"We are buying this land in Vanua Levu, near Savusavu, to address our food security and not for the relocation of our people," Kiribati President Anote Tong told the Fiji Times.

He said they were purchasing 2428 hectares which is nearly the size of Kiribati's capital atoll Tarawa, home to 28,000 people who mostly live on two small islets.

Population pressure has led to the breakdown of Tarawa and associated sea water flooding has damaged food growing land.

Speaking to the Fiji Times at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, Tong said he did not want his people panicking over the buying of land.

Tong said they were training people on what to expect if they were to relocate.

"We are not picking them up and relocating them. We are training them and they have a choice if they want to move."

He said, they would do everything they could do to ensure that they did not lose their nation to the rising sea level.

"We have accepted that we can't keep everyone in Kiribati, some will have to relocate. Relocating the whole country is our last option.

"We will try and build up some of our islands, but we can't do that for all.

"Nobody is going to give us the money to build up all our islands," he said.

"We are importing a lot of our food crops because our food crops are affected."

Kiribati includes one high island, Banaba or Ocean Island. It was largely ruined by phosphate mining for New Zealand and Australian farms. The Japanese occupied it during World War Two and either murdered or enslaved much of the population on Chuuk (then Truk) in Micronesia.

After the war the British who were the colonial administrator refused to return the survivors to Banaba, instead relocating them on Rabi Island which they purchased for them in Fiji. Today there are around 5000 Banabans living on Rabi with around 300 on Banaba itself.

Ethnically different from i-Kiribati, they have at times sought independence from Kiribati.

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- Fairfax Media

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