By CHARLES CHAMBERS
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said he would not forget the spirit of optimism and determination he encountered following the devastation caused by Cyclone Evans in Yasawa-i-rara.
“Almost three years ago – in December 2012 – Tropical Cyclone Evan cut a path of destruction through the Yasawas and much of Fiji,” he said
“It damaged or destroyed scores of homes, schools, and churches. But with courage and determination – plus assistance from outside – the people of the Yasawas have rebuilt their lives and their infrastructure,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Bainimarama was in the northern most village in the Yasawa Group to open the new jetty.
“Back in 2010, a huge storm damaged your jetty here in Yasawa-i-rara when it was in the early stages of construction.
And two years later came Cyclone Evan, with all the devastation it wrought,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said he was delighted to be here with the villagers to finally celebrate the official opening of your new $12.6 million jetty.
“As you all know, I visited you in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone to assess what was needed to get you back on your feet. And while I was shocked at the destruction, I will never forget the spirit of optimism and determination that I encountered on that visit,” Mr. Bainimarama said.
“It was the Fijian spirit at its best. And I was so moved that a year later, I asked Fiji Airways to name one of its new A330 aeroplanesYasawa-i-rara in honour of you all and the beautiful place you call home. And now the name Yasawa-i-rara can be seen on the side of that plane at all the great airports of the Asia Pacific.”
“I know that many of you will never forget the day that it flew low over the Yasawas on its delivery flight into Fiji. What a day that was. Truly a day to be proud to be a Yasawan. A day to be proud to be Fijian.”
He said it had been a tough three years for the villlagers to rebuild their homes and lives.
“As you know, I was back here in April 2014 to re-open the Bukama Primary School, that was also destroyed, and the new classroom block at the Yasawa High School in Naviti. “
Mr Bainimarama said a huge amount of work had gone into the rebuilding effort and thanked the RFMF for the assistance it provided.
“Our men and women in uniform are truly the pride of our nation – serving the world through our UN Peacekeeping Missions and serving Fijians in times of crisis, as in the aftermath of Cyclone Evan.”
“It has taken some time to provide you with a proper jetty again and I want to thank you for your patience as you made the best of a challenging situation travelling to and from the island. But now that it is finally completed, what a great sight it is.”
“Sturdy and strong and built to the highest engineering standards that will provide many years of reliable service.”
The Jetty spans 125 meters with a jetty head and landing area of 72 square metres. It can accommodate vessels with a draft of up to 5 meters. So at last we can get vessels of a substantial size to berth at Yasawa-i-rara again.
“Not only will that ease your journeys to and from the mainland but it will also enable cruise ships to visit the island again and provide you with a source of income. So it is a huge economic boost to Yasawa-i-rara, empowering our people and giving them the means to improve their lives and the lives of their families.”
“I know that a lot of effort has gone in to strengthen the structure of the new jetty to better withstand the exposed conditions on this stretch of coastline. And I want to thank both the construction team from Pacific Marine and Civil Solutions and the design engineers from MWH Fiji,” Mr. Bainimarama said.
“I just wish those people could come to Yasawa-i-rara to see the challenge people like you are facing at first hand,” he said.
“To see the beauty of your homes and the threat to you all posed by the rising seas and more frequent and stronger storms. I intend to fight as hard as I can to get the world to take notice. But in the meantime, we can only do what we have some control over.
And that is to prepare for the worst – to work as hard as we can to build our resilience to climate change. And especially events like Cyclone Evan that blew away your last jetty and upended your lives.”