Fiji is a beautiful chain of over 300 islands located in the South Pacific. Once under British control for almost 100 years, Fijians received their independence from England over 35-years ago, and today the country is going through independence pains as it struggles economically and politically to become a stabilized nation.
Since 1987 there have been four distinct government overthrows, and Americans are warned to stay watchful for the possibility of rapidly deteriorating situations while visiting the islands today. For those wishing to buy property on one of the beautiful Fiji islands, please keep in mind that when governments change, land laws can also change.
Today, it is very important to choose island real estate investments with care. About 92% of Fiji land is not available for sale under current property laws. There are three types of land in Fiji:
Native Trust Land. The Native Trust Land is controlled by a governing board of the same name that was created in Fiji during 1940 as a part of the Native Land Trust Act. When Fiji was under British rule, land problems arose as those migrating into Fiji from other areas attempted to swindle land away from the native Fijian people.
After many trial programs attempting to be fair to everybody involved, it was decided that the native people of Fiji would own the land in unison through the government, and that land leases would be used to regulate land-use rights to homeowners, commercial property businesses, and to agriculture establishments.
Native Trust Land cannot be purchased for any reason and while industry and tourists are encouraged to lease holdings through the Native Trust Land Board regional offices in Suva, Lautoka, and Labasa, many hesitate to lease land for development because there are no guarantees that the land-lease will be renewed when necessary.
Crown Land. The Crown Land is the government’s land that is used for official business. This land is not available for sale and only leased under very rare or special circumstances.
Freehold Land. The Freehold Land parcels were originally arranged to entice European farmers into settling on the islands while Fiji was under British rule. Today in Fiji there are Freehold Land parcels available for sale in all sizes and price ranges. The majority of this property is located on the second largest island of Vanua Levu, and occasionally offered in other areas as well.
When deciding to purchase Freehold Land, it is necessary for an attorney to examine the Freehold Title with care. This act is not required by law, but rather required as a safety measure to insure that the Title does not have any caveats, mortgages, or legal problems of any kind in the future. Foreigners going to court in Fiji often do not win their issues.
Other considerations exist to think about and explore prior to buying a parcel of land or home in Fiji. For this reason, it is very important to start the land search with a qualified and respected real estate agent who has been in business selling land on the islands for some time.
With economic troubles caused by recent coups and government changes, Fiji has many real estate frauds happening today. One out of every ten Fijians are currently homeless or otherwise in need of financial assistance. Commonly found land problems to watch for are the Freehold parcels that do not have an access road agreement available and those not mentioning important utility situations.
Larger towns in Fiji will normally have utility services available to those living within their borders. Not far outside of town, the situation can be very different. Homeowners who have not done their homework prior to purchase can find themselves gathering their own rain water, running generators when possible, and uncomfortable without all modern conveniences available to come into their areas.
Another word of caution to think about when buying land in Fiji; beachfront homes are those that suffer the worst during seasonal tropical storms. While it might be tempting to relocate along a gorgeous white-sanded beach, the higher elevations that are slightly away from the shorelines offer less worry about storms.
The Fijians are some of the most delightful people on earth. Like all other places on the planet, there will be those who are involved in political concerns, while everybody else goes about their daily lives happily. When buying real estate in Fiji, if it is at all possible, find a qualified real estate broker who lives in Fiji. They will work hard to give fantastic service while explaining island history, culture, and land areas that are exactly right for your needs.
CIA World Fact Book: ‘Fiji’ Staff Writers / Last Updated 2/10/09
U.S. Department of State ‘Fiji’ Bureau of Consulate Affairs / Staff Writers / Last Updated 10/24/08
ITC Services Online ‘Laws of Fiji’ Government of Fiji