I. REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND DEVELOPMENT TRENDS RELATED TO URBANIZATION
A. Suva: geographic outline
Suva City is built on the major peninsula of south-east Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. It is the main urban, commercial and administrative centre for the country. Suva is also seen as the hub of the South Pacific, and is the base for a number of regional and international agencies and NGOs.
The peninsula on which the Suva is located is less than five kilometres long, with an average width of three kilometres. East of the peninsula is Laucala Bay and to the west is Suva harbour. Of the two bodies of water, the latter is more important, economically. Its depth and spaciousness is one of the main reasons why the capital was moved to Suva during the colonial era. The heart of the city is the central business district, containing the commercial and administrative offices. The district is located in the original town, a mile-long stretch along the central western shore of the peninsula. Just to the north is Walu Bay, the biggest industrial area and the main port for local shipping. The rest of the peninsula is mostly residential suburbs, surrounding several decentralized commercial areas such as Samabula, Nabua, Raiwaqa, and Toorak, the University of the South Pacific, and the smaller industrial subdivision of Vatuwaqa located on Laucala Bay.
Much of the commercial and industrial operations in Suva are built on reclaimed land. Reclamation projects were initially undertaken in order to build the main Suva wharf and to increase the area of flatland for administrative and commercial activities. Walu Bay, the main industrial area, is built on 55 ha of drained and reclaimed mangrove swamp.
The area defined as Suva City covers an area of 2,600 ha. This is the area that comes under the auspices of SCC. Urban growth has spread well beyond the peninsula and Suva City boundaries. What is generally known as the Suva region (or Greater Suva) includes the peri-urban areas along the Suva-Nausori corridor. It is made up of three municipalities (Suva City, Lami town and Nausori town) and two Rural Local Authorities (Suva and Nausori). The total area of Greater Suva, including Suva City, is approximately 6,500 ha. The total population of the Greater Suva area is approximately 208,000.
Suva City is a patchwork of mainly Crown and freehold land, with freeholdings predominating in the central business district and Crown land predominating elsewhere. While 83 per cent of the land in Fiji is held under native title, there is very little native land in Suva City. What little native land exists tends to be found in the outskirts of the city. The exception is Cruickshank Park in the city centre which belongs to Suvavou village which comprised the original inhabitants of the Suva peninsula. The residential areas that are on Crown land tend to be on 99 year leases, while the industrial subdivisions on Crown land tend to be 30 year leases but are renewed more often than every 30 years. Thus, by and large, there are no environmental constraints to the orderly and sustainable development of Suva City.
A contiguous urban corridor now stretches 15 km from the City of Suva to the north east along Queens highway to the Town of Nausori located on north east bank of the Rewa River, Fiji largest river. Nausori is the location of the domestic and international airport that serves Suva. The Suva-Nausori corridor makes up most of what is known as the Greater Suva area and contains Fiji's main urban population concentrations (approximately 210,000). These include the rapidly growing urban centres of Nasinu, Valelevu, Nadera, Wainibuku and include a number of new industrial subdivisions such as Kalabu. Yet this urban concentration is not recognized as a municipality. Nausori (population 21,645) is recognized as a municipality. Contiguous to Suva City in the west is the municipality of Lami (population 18,918), which contains a number of suburbs surrounding a small commercial area straddling the Queens highway.
The urban corridor running from the Suva town boundary to the edge of Nausori is not legally defined as a township and thus has no local government. The necessary urban functions are administered by the Suva Rural Local Authority (SRLA), a Department of the Ministry of Health. The main responsibility of SRLA is the collection of garbage. The responsibility for town planning is with the Department of Town and Country Planning in accordance with the Greater Suva Structural Plan.
The local government situation is expected to change in the near future. Consultations are being held to set up a township to be named Nasinu, which will take in most of the urban corridor. That may create the second most populous town in Fiji as it is a large and densely populated area. That will mean the end of SRLA, as the newly constituted City Council will take over all the responsibilities.
Urbanization of Fiji: demographic trends
The original town boundary for Suva was one square mile, running along the eastern shore of the peninsula from the southern edge of Walu Bay (now the main industrial area) up to and including Albert Park, and extending one mile inland. Those boundaries remained unchanged for some 76 years, but urban growth took little notice and steadily spread over the peninsula. By the 1946 census the municipal population had grown from around 200 in the 1870s to 11,398, with the rest of the peninsula having a population of 12,115 (Derrick). In 1953, Suva was proclaimed a city and its boundaries extended to take in most of the rest of the peninsula. That was the first of many boundary changes with the Lami area being included and then removed, and with the boundary creeping up the Princes Rd over the years.
As with all the urban centres, the colonial administration discouraged indigenous settlement in Suva. For most of the colonial period Suva remained predominantly a non-indigenous town. With the relaxation of native regulations over time, increasing numbers of the indigenous population moved into the city. In 1946, Indians comprised 50 per cent of the Suva peninsula population, followed by people of European descent at 17 per cent, people of other ancestry at 8 per cent, and indigenous people at 25 per cent. The indigenous population of the city rose steadily until 1996, when the census showed that for the first time indigenous members of the population formed the majority ethnic group in Suva. Similar demographic trends occurred in other urban areas in Fiji.
Suva has continued to dominate the economic, political, social, and urban life of Fiji, although its domination over other urban centres has decreased. In 1946, it had more than six times the population of its nearest rival, the mining town of Vatukoula, western Viti Levu, and 70 per cent of the urban population. But by 1996 that had dropped to 46.8 per cent as other towns grew and more towns were created, even though no other municipality had even close to a third of the population of Suva. Yet the urban growth focus has now moved towards the western side of Viti Levu, particularly around the international airport town of Nadi. Suva now holds over one fifth of the total population of Fiji, up from around one tenth in 1946.
The last four population censuses from 1966 to 1996 indicated that Suva had continually attracted significant numbers from the rural areas and outer islands. The population of the Greater Suva area doubled from 1966 to 1996, to stand at 167,421 (table 1). To that statistic, must be added the estimated 40,000 people living in the contiguous municipalities of Nausori and Lami. However, the population of Suva City itself has not grown over the past decade as a result of the steady encroachment of the central business district into residential areas (table 2).
Overall, the urban population increased by some 29 per cent over the previous census period, giving an annual urban growth rate of 2.6 per cent compared with an overall population growth of 0.8 per cent. Thus Fiji is rapidly becoming an urban society. Significantly, the indigenous community of Fiji has by far the highest annual urban movement of 4.1 per cent. Urban migration has been driven by the perceived prospects of jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector, as well as problems of land access, limited income-generating opportunities on the outer islands, and a perception of better educational opportunities in urban areas.
Source: Bureau of Statistics.
g1996 values are based on preliminary results of the 1996 population census by the Bureau of Statistics.
( ) figures are percentage of urban population of Fiji.
[ ] figures are percentage of total population of Fiji.
Source: Bureau of Statistics, Statistical News, Census 1996: provisional results.
The Greater Suva area now has an estimated population of 168,000, making it the second largest city in the South Pacific after Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. The addition of the municipalities of Nausori and Lami provides an urban concentration of 200,000 persons. The rapid population growth over past 20 years means that Suva area now has to grapple with Third World urban environmental problems of urban poverty, squatter housing, over-taxed infrastructure, crime, congestion and pollution. For example, it has been estimated that one person in eight in the Greater Suva area now lives in an informal housing (squatter) settlement (Donnelly, Quanchi and Kerr, 19??).