Acting Minister for National Disaster, Mereseini Vuniwaqa says the Government is looking to improve National Building Code compliance, with an insurance package being considered.
Speaking at the International Engineering Symposium in Suva, she said there was a need for experts such as construction engineers to relook at the building code and provide recommendations on how it could effectively apply across various urban and rural boundaries.
She also noted the necessity of standardising construction requirements for housing construction to meet a particular standard for different boundaries.
“This is to ensure that its requirements are simple, practical for implementation and also affordable for people living and constructing within these areas,” she emphasized.
“To support compliance to the building code, government is currently exploring an insurance package to entice compliance to a certain construction standard.
“This is still in the design stage and requires both the identification of suitable insurance providers who are willing to work with homeowners as well as the identification of appropriate incentive schemes to ensure that this insurance package is relevant for Fiji. Such a mechanism can greatly support the work on building resilience in the housing sector.”
She also noted the adoption of rebuilding principals as a recovery strategy following widespread damage from Tropical Cyclone Winston, which damaged and destroyed a total of 30,369 houses, 495 schools, and 88 health clinics and medical facilities in February 2016.
As part of these efforts, a central agency known as the Construction Implementation Unit (CIU) has been established within the Ministry of Economy to coordinate preparations of recovery strategies in housing and construction.
“The CIU has received a wealth of voluntary support from Fiji’s private sector, notably from members of the Fiji Institute of Engineers (FIE) with the provision of professional advisory services,” Vuniwaqa added.
“The CIU with the assistance of FIE are now vetting all detailed technical drawings, designs and costing for majority of the building reconstruction. They are also providing recommendations on government’s long terms plans concerning new constructions.
“For the 2017- 2018 budget Government has allocated F$170 million dollars to rebuild and repair schools damaged by TC Winston. The CIU in collaboration with Fiji Institute of Engineers will work to ensure that these schools are rebuilt according to the required standards. This partnership with the Fiji Institute of Engineers is also important for building long term resilience in the education sector. “
TC Winston struck on Feb 20 2016 and left $76 million of structural damage around the country, in its wake, including six exclusive island properties and significant damage to a total of 75 from 400 national tourism businesses.
Then noted as the worst storm on record for the Southern hemisphere, the Category-5 tropical cyclone destroyed 7.5 per cent of Fiji’s total housing stock.
The Western Division’s housing sector was the worst affected, with total damage estimated at F$439 million, followed by the Northern and Eastern Divisions, respectively.
“The greatest lesson from TC Winston is that Fiji needed to build back stronger to ensure that we can continue to reduce our level of exposure and vulnerability into the future,” the Minister emphasised.
She noted that this has led to the design of a recovery strategy framed around the key concepts of Building Back Better (BBB) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).