Two important Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) projects that will make all the difference to the ‘Friendly North’ are making good progress, creating better, easier, more reliable connections, and opening the way for even more tourist and commercial development.
The Natovi Jetty, Viti Levu’s main access point for goods, services and people, has been undergoing a big upgrade. Following an urgent shutdown of the jetty’s ‘finger’ late last year for public safety, works began on the removal and replacement of the jetty deck. Following the demolition of the structure it was revealed that inherent problems with the jetty’s piles needed to be factored into the project.
The Natovi Jetty improvements will result in a safer and more useable jetty for both the public and boat operators.
“It will also last,” says Don Clifford from MWH Global, the FRA’s Engineering Consultant.
“The concreting work is designed to world class standards, and best practice construction techniques are being used, giving a design life of 100 years.”
It is envisioned that travel time from Natovi Landing to Vanua Levu and Ovalau will be able to be reduced, because faster ships will be able to use the port.
The seabed where the old jetty used to be is being dredged, and preparation works being done to widen the existing ramp. The site will be reopened in two phases – the ramp is expected to be complete by mid July, and the final stage in September.
Another significant undertaking is the work to seal the Nabouwalu to Dreketi road, FRA’s largest project. The old road was narrow, bumpy and dusty. While the project has a $230 million dollar price tag, it brings potential economic benefits worth many times that.
Work on the road is about a quarter complete, and is expected to finish after mid-2016.
Once the whole road is finished it will provide a smooth, sealed road that is less damaging to vehicles and will lessen travel time between Nabouwalu and Labasa or Savusavu. It will be significantly safer than the existing gravel road and be open in all weather conditions. Strong, new bridges and crossings have been built as part of the upgrade.
“This is actually a very complex project,” says MWH’s Mike Rudge. “There are 14 bridges and 160 crossings on that stretch of road, each of which needs to be carefully considered.”
“A lot of people in Vanua Levu make a living from the land,” says Fiji Roads Authority Capital Works Manager Ian Hunter. “Upgrades to roads, jetties and bridges will give them faster, more cost effective and more reliable access to markets. They will also lay the foundations for people to make a living in new ways. World-class infrastructure will enable Vanua Levu to further develop commercial and tourism opportunities, and diversify its economy further.”
Mr Hunter says it is necessary to get people, goods and services moving more efficiently around Vanua Levu, and between the island and other ports, before that diversification can really take off. The current travel time from Nabouwalu to Labasa, for example, presently averages 2.5 to 3 hours. This sealing project will reduce that travel time to under 2 hours consistently.
Mr Hunter says the flow on effects of all of the FRA work happening on Vanua Levu – across bridges, jetties and roads – will bring benefits for all aspects of life on the island.
“Commercial transport operators will be able to move things faster, making their businesses more profitable, and enabling them to do more jobs and hire more people. Commuters and tourists will no longer have to dread the long, bumpy, uncomfortable and often unpredictable roads, and will enjoy exploring more of Vanua Levu, which in turn will benefit the whole tourism industry in the North. It will become more cost effective, and faster for developers to respond to those commercial demands, and create enduring income streams for people and businesses there.”