New Foot-crossing and community hall commissioned in Oneata

Caption: Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Sakiasi Ditoka and Government representatives with villagers of Waiqori in Oneata following the commissioning of their community Foot-crossing project in Lau.

SUVA – Christmas came early for the villagers of Waiqori on the island of Oneata in Lau as they witnessed the commissioning of their community hall and a new and improved Foot-crossing by the Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Hon. Sakiasi Ditoka in December 2023.

This rural development initiative is a crucial step towards addressing the challenges faced by the children of Waiqori District School, and the broader community of Waiqori.

During his tour of the islands of Moce and Oneata, Minister Ditoka witnessed firsthand the impact of these projects. The visit, the first since assuming office in December last year, emphasised the Coalition Government’s commitment to the well-being of Fiji citizens.

Completed under the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management’s Community Access Roads, Footpaths and Footbridges (CARFF) Programme, the Waiqori Foot-crossing Project will provide a safer and more reliable means for children to access education, especially during adverse weather conditions. Previously, students risked their lives using an old crossing damaged during the tsunami caused by the effects of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in 2022.

This investment by the Government ensures the installation of a safe and durable standard foot-crossing, promoting inclusive access to essential services like schools and health facilities. The added feature of solar lights not only ensures the safety of women and children at night but also creates opportunities for socio-economic development, uplifting living standards in the Waiqori community.

The project is a reflection of the Government’s dedication to providing equal opportunities, particularly for Persons Living with Disability, the elderly, women, children, and vulnerable groups. The installation of solar lights guarantees round-the-clock access to health services, fostering a sense of security and inclusivity.

In addition to the Waiqori Foot-crossing Project, Minister Ditoka also commissioned the Waiqori Community Hall. The improved facility now stands as a safe haven for villagers during times of emergencies. This dual initiative not only addresses immediate needs but also lays the foundation for resilience and community development.

Waiqori Village Women’s Club leader Ms. Loata Colati said they were thankful to the Government for this development assistance, considering the difficulties and challenges they faced in the past.

“When we look back at the challenges we used to face, we used to feel for our children’s safety, especially when there’s coastal flooding or flooding in the village. Previously, before the construction of this community hall, we used to shelter in a nearby school or homes within the village that we see fit as shelter during times of disaster. With the commissioning of the new foot-crossing and community hall, we cannot thank the Government enough for this aid,” she said.

In commissioning the projects, Hon. Ditoka congratulated the villagers on being successful recipients of this assistance from the Government, and also enlightened the villagers about the other rural development programmes available at the Ministry.

Caption: Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Sakiasi Ditoka with the villagers of Waiqori at their newly opened community hall at Oneata, Lau.

Caption: The Waiqori Community Hall was commissioned on the island of Oneata in Lau.