Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Journal Article - SSGM DISCUSSION PAPER
Title Sharing the city: Urban growth and governance in Suva, Fiji
Volume 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://ssgm.bellschool.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/2016-09/dp_2016_6_phi​llips_and_keen.pdf
Fiji is the most urbanised state in Melanesia. Its main city, Suva, is facing many challenges of rapid growth. With more than 50 per cent of its population now living in its cities and that number set to increase to about 60 per cent in the next decade (UN-Habitat 2012a), Suva officials and residents are working to address the pressures of urbanisation and to capitalise on its opportunities. Rapid growth has given rise to familiar urban problems in Suva, including unemployment, poverty, informal settlements and patchy services — about a fifth of the Greater Suva residents live in informal or squatter settlements, many in poverty with poor services and connectivity to the city. Yet despite the inequities and service gaps, positive gains from urbanisation are being made in Suva. The challenge for urban managers and residents is to capitilise on the potential of cities to boost productivity, connectivity and infrastructure coverage while better managing emerging social, cultural and service delivery divides. There are some positive signs. While unemployment in Fiji is high, at about 7.6 per cent, it is declining; Suva remains a strong driver of national economic growth, accounting for about a third of gross domestic product (GDP); and while urban poverty persists, it is falling (World Bank 2014). Moreover, emerging institutional arrangements are attempting to reconcile the impetus for growth with customary values and land tenure.

As part of a broader study of urbanisation by the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) program at the Australian National University, this paper outlines some of the tensions and innovations that have occurred in Suva with respect to urban development and informal settlements over the last decade. ‘Informal settlements’ is an umbrella term used in this paper to encompass settlements of ‘squatters’ (the vernacular term for those who reside on freehold or state land without legal title), and people who have made informal arrangements with owners to reside on customary land. Both situations tend to mushroom in rapidly urbanising contexts, and Fiji’s attempts to grapple with this and other urban issues might be applicable across the Pacific region. The research involved reviewing government documents and literature, and conducting interviews with high-level government officials in the Ministry of Lands, Department of Housing, Suva City Council and Nausori Town Council, as well as with key community stakeholders. We consider the lessons that can be learnt from Suva’s experiences and the challenges that lie ahead. In particular, we are concerned with addressing issues of exclusion, inequality, and access to urban land and shelter.

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