Church denies land sale

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 14:47 22/04/2014

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The Anglican church denies reports from Fiji that one of its trusts has sold the 2210 hectares of land in Fiji for A$9.3 million (NZ$10 million) to the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

Fiji's military regime believes the Trust Board of the Diocese of Polynesia has sold the land and that the people of Kiribati will settle at Natoavatu on Vanua Levu.

Natoavatu remains listed with land agents including Suva-based Skyline Realtors which said ''this opportunity is extremely rare in Fiji since the property is so large and the price is extremely fair".

Anglican church spokesman Jayson Rhodes said while there has been speculation about the land sale for more than a year ''the best I can establish is that there has been no sale''.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia has three parts corresponding to the three parts of its name. It has 13 dioceses, one of which is the Diocese of Polynesia, which encompasses Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands.

Kiribati President Anote Tong said last August it was buying the land so his 100,000 people would have some where to move should the archipelago sink due to global warming.

''We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,'' Tong said. ''It's basically going to be a matter of survival.''

He said they had consent from the Fiji Government to buy the land which had no settlements on it and was covered in lush forest.

In Kiribati's Parliament, Land Minister Tiarite Kwong said there was an agreement for a deposit of 10 per cent of the price.

In February Fiji's President Epeli Nailatikau said the i-Kiribati people would be welcome in Fiji if they had to leave.

''I want to assure you all that Fiji will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you face this crisis, as well as in doing everything possible to try to avert it. In a worst case scenario and if all else fails, you will not be refugees.''

* This story has been edited since it was first published and removes erroneous detail.

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