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Pacific News Minute: Fiji residents concerned about Australian-funded defense facility

fiji maritime Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese launch the Maritime Essential Services Centre project on July 12, 2022.
Republic of Fiji Navy
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Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama
and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese launch the Maritime Essential Services Centre project on July 12, 2022.

Residents of a town in Fiji are concerned about an Australian-funded defense facility being built in a residential area. They say they weren’t consulted and are worried about the base being located so close to their homes.

For decades, an old artillery fort from World War II was the only military structure in Lami, a town on the outskirts of Fiji’s capital, Suva.

But that’s about to change.

Construction started last week on an $83 million multipurpose maritime facility.

The Fijian government says the Maritime Essential Services Center will improve the country’s naval capabilities, as well as be a staging area for training, security and rescue operations.

The building will house Fiji's naval headquarters and a radio station, and will include live-in accommodations.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2024, paid for by the Australian government.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama calls it a "crucial pulse point" to monitor Fiji's waters.

But the project has come under fire from some residents in the town who don’t want the military site near their homes. They fear it will put the local population at risk to possible conflicts in the region.

The Fiji Times reports the country’s Ministry of Defence met with Lami residents and told them that no arms or ammunition will be kept at the site.

The Australian and Fijian governments estimate the project will inject about $56 million into the Fijian economy and create more than 400 jobs.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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