DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION FIJI NEWS SUMMARY 26/11/14 5:00PM

1. THURSTON GARDENS DRAFT MASTER PLAN LAUNCHED – A draft Master Plan and an exhibition to obtain feedback from members of the public on ways to recreate Thurston Gardens were launched in Suva today.

2. THREE AMBASSADORS HONOURED – Three of Fiji’s Ambassadors including a current one were yesterday inducted as Officers of the Order of Fiji by His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

3. MINISTER EMPOWERS GIRLS? SCHOOL – The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Sofia Akbar highlighted the importance of empowering young women and girls to strive for excellence at the DAV Girl?s college annual prize giving today.

4. SPORTS TO BE A FORM OF DIPLOMACY: NAIVALURUA – The Fijian Government believes that sports should be used as a form of diplomacy to reach out to everyone.

5. INNOVATION IS VALUED AT THE FIJI ELECTIONS OFFICE – Speaking at the Annual Awards Ceremony at Shri Guru Nanak Secondary School in Labasa today, the Supervisor of elections Mohammed Saneem said Elections Office has implemented a completely merits based recruitment system.

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1. THURSTON GARDENS DRAFT MASTER PLAN LAUNCHED

A draft Master Plan and an exhibition to obtain feedback from members of the public on ways to recreate Thurston Gardens were launched in Suva today.

Speaking at the launch, His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said the effort to revitalize the gardens through the master plan is a noble endeavor, which is necessary for Fiji?s present and future generations.

Thurston Gardens was established as the Suva Botanical Garden in 1913 and was graced with exotic plant species from all over the world along with some of Fiji?s endemic trees, ornamentals and flowers.

Ratu Epeli said the need for an urban garden in our city is even more significant now.

?With the increasing trend of urbanisation over generations, the degradation of forest ecosystems, and declining biodiversity, our people are losing their cultural ties to nature and its importance to their daily lives,? Ratu Epeli said.

He said Thurston Gardens are no doubt, unique in their rich history, cultural and natural significance to all the people of Fiji.

?Poor drainage has impacted on the existing gardens, mainly as a result of reclamation opposite on the sea side of Queen Elizabeth Drive – this, together with the impact of hurricanes has resulted in many of the original trees having been lost.

?The gardens are not in the state they were around 1970 and the water feature and lily pond for example need to be fully repaired. In addition, many indigenous trees, ferns, palms and orchids are no longer present in the gardens.

?Botanic gardens can perform many useful roles, including in awareness and education, in information and knowledge provision, in recreation as well as in providing assistance with restoring ecosystems by maintaining some of these within the garden area,? Ratu Epeli added.

The President highlighted that the new Suva Thurston Gardens Master Plan is an opportunity to recreate a special place to reconnect with nature.

?With a mission to conserve, discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life, the gardens will fulfill an important role in our society.

?Several of the new key features of the Thurston Gardens will be the creation of a new collection of native and endemic plants, thematic collections of plants, improved landscaping, a focus on the historical significance of the place, improved recreational amenities and solving the problems of drainage which are shared in common with the presidential compound next door and Albert Park,? Ratu Epeli said.

The revitalised gardens will be developed according to international standards.

The Thurston Gardens is a listed Fiji Heritage Site, together with the adjacent properties of Albert Park and the Grand Pacific Hotel.

?Additionally, this combination of significant colonial buildings, including the Fiji Museum, all in the same precinct, is a unique opportunity to enhance the tourism attraction of this part of the city of Suva,? Ratu Epeli said.

Thurston Gardens boast many special plants such as the unique Marquesas Palm from French Polynesia and Fiji?s endemic Dakua Makadre, the largest and longest living tree in the region with an estimated lifespan of 300-1000 years.

The draft Master Plan and the exhibition to obtain people?s feedback will be on display for a week at the Fiji Museum.

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2. THREE AMBASSADORS HONOURED

Three of Fiji’s Ambassadors including a current one were yesterday inducted as Officers of the Order of Fiji by His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Peter Thomson and former ambassadors Kaliopate Tavola and Robin Yarrow were awarded for their contributions to humanity and to Fiji.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Amena Yauvoli said the ministry was proud of the contributions made by Ambassador Thomson and the two former ambassadors.

He said that the three Ambassadors were instrumental in flying Fiji’s flag when representing the country in the global fora.

Ambassador Thomson said receiving the award was a great honour and he dedicated it to all Fiji’s hardworking diplomats in Suva and overseas.

He said that it was also a tribute to the ministry given that three ambassadors were recipients of the Officers of the Order of Fiji.

They were out of the 18 Fijian citizens who were honored for their contributions in society.

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3. MINISTER EMPOWERS GIRLS? SCHOOL

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Sofia Akbar highlighted the importance of empowering young women and girls to strive for excellence at the DAV Girl?s college annual prize giving today.

?Excellence is all about having the confidence to share knowledge and accepting criticism. Our government has made it easier for you to access education. Increased budget provision for 2015 is a positive sign of development in the Education sector that will benefit you all,? Mrs Akbar said.

The Minister said the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS) has further been strengthened and streamlined to make it more efficient and accessible.

?Government efforts are in place to increase the ratio of teachers to students by 2016 that will result in a better learning environment. Government plans to further carry out a review of basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy and will prioritize improvement in these basic skills,? she said.

Mrs Akbar added that the aim is to have a skills-rich workforce so that the country can capitalise on economic growth.

Year 11 student of DAV Girls College, Ashley Ashwira who scooped the DUX award said she was happy to receive the prize and aims to score high marks next year.

?I?m aiming for a higher mark in Year 12 and work towards my goals to get the DUX award again next year,? Ashwira said.

School head girl, Koini Tinairaiova who received the Principal?s all-rounder award said she aims to become a teacher after finishing tertiary education.

?I dedicate this award to my mum and plan to study diploma in teaching,? Ms Tinairaiova said.

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4. SPORTS TO BE A FORM OF DIPLOMACY: NAIVALURUA

The Fijian Government believes that sports should be used as a form of diplomacy to reach out to everyone.

These were the words of Fiji?s ambassador at large and Fiji Basketball Association president Major General Ioane Naivalurua during the cheque handover this afternoon at the Fiji Basketball office.

?I believe that this is the right direction of establishing a firm base for our young men and women,? Mr Naivalurua said.

The $5000 cheque was handed over to Mr Naivalurua by Pacific Energy and will boost the sports organisation?s preparations for the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) University of the South Pacific under 19 Oceania Championship that will be held next week.

Mr Naivalurua said they will ensure that the games are safe and a successful one where participants return to their homes safely.

He said the Fiji Under 19 basketball team is a development team however they are strong and the tournament will make them better than before.

He also thanked the sponsors and ?assured them that the money will be spent wisely and effectively.

The event is an international qualifying event for the World U19 Basketball Championship to be held in Greece for the men and in Russia for the women in 2017.

It is also the first time that a basketball event of this kind has been held outside Australia and New Zealand.

Two hundred and eighty participants from countries like American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Guam, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti will be attending the week-long event.

The games will be held from December 01-06, 2014 at the Vodafone Arena in Suva.

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5. INNOVATION IS VALUED AT THE FIJI ELECTIONS OFFICE

Speaking at the Annual Awards Ceremony at Shri Guru Nanak Secondary School in Labasa today, the Supervisor of elections Mohammed Saneem said Elections Office has implemented a completely merits based recruitment system.

“When we were faced with the challenge of educating 591 thousand voters all over Fiji, not only did we resort to the traditional awareness methods but new techniques such as the national candidates box, Facebook and Youtube was used to guide voting in Fiji elections,” Mr Saneem said.

He added the result was less than 1 per cent of votes cast in the election were invalid showing that Fiji has done well.

Meanwhile, Mr Saneem reminded the students that excellence is a journey of doing better and a continuous pathway to improvement, innovation and giving their best.

DEPTFO