Nawi Island Faces Scrutiny

Feb. 12, 2018, 12:02 p.m.

The owners of the Nawi Island residential resort and marina development in Savusavu have issued a statement outlining its environmental management process, amid rising public concerns and now a petition against deforestation and seabed dredging on the island.

The project aims to construct an adjoining resort and spa, marina, private villa lots, yacht club and dry dock on the Freehold island located on Savusavu Bay, positioned directly across the tourism hub’s CBD in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island.

Nawi Island Limited says it has worked diligently to ensure the project would set the standard for environmental sustainability, and believes the project will be good not just for Savusavu’s economy but for its environment.

“We have begun the next phase of the development project, the construction of our 140-berth,” the company confirmed.

“An in-depth environmental impact assessment (EIA) was completed in 2006. It was followed by another EIA in 2016. Both EIAs were carried out by Dr Dick Watling of Environment Consultants Fiji. Dr Watling is the most experienced EIA consultant in Fiji.”

The EIAs covered a mangrove conversion analysis, coastal process assessments, marine assessment, plants and animals (terrestrials), assessment, engineering assessment, geotechnical assessments and social assessments.

The developers say they followed due process to obtain the required approvals for the foreshore development project, including releasing the EIA report for public scrutiny, public review meetings and open dialogue with stakeholders. They claim to have more EIA public consultations than any other project in Fiji, finishing in 2016, alongside conditional approval of Dr Watling’s Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) in August 2017 to set out how Nawi’s construction would deal with envisaged environmental impacts. This was followed by a building permit granted by the Savusavu Town Council to begin work.

An online petition titled Save Savusavu Bay has been organized by residents, and says that the Savusavu Town Council and Ministry for Lands are responsible for approving the destruction of 10 hectares of mangrove and dredging Nawi’s seabed, thus threatening local livelihoods, safety, ecology and the environment.

“First, as a town, Savusavu depends on ecotourists for its economic survival. Savusavu is advertised as the hidden paradise and the heart Fiji, brimming with amazing natural beauty and wildlife. The untouched splendour of the ocean draws divers and snorkelers from around the world to Savusavu shores. Without this distinction, Savusavu would not be a unique and sought after destination in Fiji. From the damage that has already been done, we are witnessing fuel spills and dead marine life.  Local businesses and residents depend on ecotourism to stay afloat.

“One of the most unique features of the Savusavu diving industry, that draws people globally, is the presence of its residential school of scalloped hammerheads which depend on mangroves as potential nursery grounds.”

The petition also noted decaying mangrove and rotting marine life had caused an overwhelming odour. 

Nawi Island Limited said a mangrove reserve it created with primary school students in 2014 was outside its construction site, with over 3 acres covered by close to 8000 seedlings, and that over 40 per cent of these 2-3-metre-high grown plants deliberately vandalized and cut down in recent weeks.

Nawi Island Limited said they had worked hard on their environmental plan and would work equally hard to ensure its targets are met during construction.

Last year, the Savusavu Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Fijian Government to seek a joint private-public partnership to develop the town as the world’s first environmentally sustainable green “model town”, with a focus on areas of high marina biodiversity and assisting reliant communities with preservation efforts for food security.