Tavarua Resort Doomed?

Andy Irons, in more privatized times. Photo: Jeff Flindt

Andy Irons, in more privatized times. Photo: Jeff Flindt

By Nick Carroll

In what seems like a dramatic turn of events, the Fijian Tourism Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has announced that all restrictions on access to Fiji’s surf spots will be lifted.

Under the new Regulation of Surfing Areas Decree — reported by Radio Fiji on Thursday — all title to surf spot access in the islands will be cancelled. This would include premier surf zones such as Restaurants and Cloudbreak, long held as an exclusive by the Tavarua Island surf resort.

The spots would become in effect free to anyone with a boat to get to them.

The decree excludes any challenge in court against the cancellation of leases.

Namotu resort owner Scott O’Conner confirmed the news to SURFING, saying it comes as much a surprise to him as anyone else. The first he heard of the decree was in the paper on Friday morning.

“We’re just waiting for the date to be handed down,” he said of the decree, which will be activated at a date to be determined by the Tourism Minister. “It could be tomorrow, it could be in a month.”

He said the Fijian villagers who’ve been leasing Cloudbreak and Restaurants to the Tavarua resort for years are “freaking out … there’s three villages there that will be a million bucks a year worse off.”

Scott said he had no idea why the Minister was cancelling the titles, but that “there’s a long way to go yet” in the story.

(See below the report from Radio Fiji):

Surf’s Up in Fiji with new decree
Thursday, July 01, 2010

Surfing areas around the country are now open to anyone who wants to use them under the new Regulation of Surfing Areas Decree.

Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says this will allow access to any surfing area in Fiji without payment or compensation, and enhance Fiji’s image as a premier surf travel destination.

In the past some top surfing areas were restricted by hotels or resorts that had leases over the area and imposed payment and conditions for their use.

The Decree cancels any existing instrument of title, including any lease or license – without payment of any compensation.

All interests for any surfing area in Fiji have been vested to the Director of Lands and the decree excludes any challenges in court against the cancellation of existing interests.

As the Minister responsible, Sayed-Khaiyum will determine a date for the commencement of the Decree.