DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF LAND IN FIJI
The Republic of Fiji has over 300 tropical islands and is a mecca for foreigners wanting to own a slice of real estate in a developing and central South Pacific country.
The Greater Suva Area in the capital city is generally the most congested residential part of Fiji, though the Ba Province, which covers Nadi Town and Lautoka City has the highest population. Fiji’s population and housing census is conducted every 10 years, with the latest census noting a population yet to reach 900,000 and an urban population with a 5% growth from 2007-2017.
Freehold is the only land type that can be purchased outright by non-residents. There is no timeframe on the ownership of Freehold and so, it is often regarded as the most secure tenure.
Similar to Australia and New Zealand, Fiji uses the Torrens titles systems, named so after Australian, Sir Richard Torrens. Fiji adopted this system and applies the regulation of land ownership and dealings through the Land Transfer Act.
An important note of the Torrens system is that titles are indefeasible, so they cannot be made void or cancelled by past events, unless titles were obtained fraudulently, and there have been judicial rulings in Fijian courts that have upheld this principle.
The administration of Fiji’s Freehold land is handled by the Registrar of Titles, which usually liaises directly with lawyers who carry out conveyancing duties on behalf of their clients.
About 8 % of Fiji’s landmass is Freehold. Compared to Fiji’s main towns and cities, Freehold titles are prevalent in places such as Rakiraki and Pacific Harbour, as well as Savusavu Town and the islands of Taveuni and Koro in Fiji’s Northern Division.
In 2014, Fiji’s Land Sales Act was amended with new provisions for non-resident Freehold owners.
Under the amended Act, the term resident refers to
- an individual who is a Fiji citizen
- a company with a controlling interest that is held by a Fiji citizen or Fiji citizens and
- the trustee of a trust estate who is a Fiji citizen and whose beneficial interest is over 15 % in the trust estate income.
Foreigners (non-residents) who obtain vacant State of Freehold land must building a residential dwelling at a minimum cost of FJD $250,000, within two years from the date of the sale, transfer or lease of the vacant land.
It’s important to note that penalties for non-compliance include a fine up to $100,000 and a fixed penalty of 10 % of the price of the State or Freehold land.
Residential State and Freehold land located within municipal boundaries (towns or cities) cannot be sold, transferred or leased by foreigners.
Foreigners can however own Freehold property within municipal boundaries if that property is a strata title or a residential dwelling within integrated tourism developments, such as Denarau Island, Naisoso Island in Nadi. Foreigners can also acquire hotel operations that are licensed under the Hotel and Guest Houses Act.
Likewise, the sale, transfer or lease of State or Freehold to foreigners is allowed for industrial or commercial purposes.
Foreigners can lease State and Freehold land for tenancy not exceeding 5 years. Such land can also be sold, transferred or leased to foreigners, immediate family members and given, devised or bequeathed to foreigners, as per the Succession, Probate and Administration Act.
Over 90% of Fiji’s land mass is customarily owned by indigenous Fijians, known as i Taukei. Native land is communally owned. All leases and dealings for native land are administered by the i Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB), with rental charges and premiums equally distributed between all living members of each landowning unit (known as mataqali).
It is important to note that if you wish to lease native land, you must do so through the TLTB, and not liaise separately with an individual, because native land in Fiji is communally owned by all living members of landowning units (mataqali) and clans (yavusa). Transactions that are made directly with individuals without the communal consent of landowning units and the approval of the TLTB are not officially recognized and illegal.
You may notice that some properties for sale sit on native land, and thus these property titles will have subjective years left, depending on the type of lease. For example, a farm house may be listed with the description, “native lease, agricultural,15 years left.”
Titles of leases will be transferred to their new owners upon purchase, but ownership will be on a lease basis, and not outright, like Freehold.
For Fiji’s current native leases, the TLTB also consents for the transfer of title or for an extended timeframe for mortgages for leases, in consultation with landowners.
For new native leases, the majority of work is carried out by the TLTB, with the safe majority of landowner consent generally being 60 % of landowning unit members.
Many leases can be purchased for 99-year periods, though agricultural leases traditionally have lesser leasing timeframes.
There are native titles that can be purchased for agriculture, commercial, education, industrial, residential, tourism, forestry, water and mineral leasing.
The TLTB has regional offices in Suva City, Nadi Town, Lautoka City and Labasa Town.
- The TLTB South Western Office is at Level 1, Airport Central Complex in Namaka, Nadi . It overseas all tourism leases on native land around the country, in addition to native land leases for Fiji’s South West region. It covers the Yasawa islands, Mamanuca islands, Navosa province, part of Namosi province and part of Ba province.
- The TLTB Central Eastern Office is based on Level 2 of the TLTB Headquarters, along Victoria Parade in Suva’s CBD. It covers the provinces of Lomaiviti, Kadavu, Lau, Tailevu, Naitasiri, Rewa, Serua and part of Namosi.
- The TLTB North Western Office is at Mana St in Lautoka’s CBD. Provinces overseen by this office include Fiji’s largest, Ra, the towns of Tavua and Rakiraki, and part of Ba (from Viseisei village in Vuda towards Lautoka.
- The TLTB Northern Office is located at Level 1 of the TISI Sangam Building in Labasa’s CBD. This office oversees the provinces of Macuata, Bua and Cakaudrive.
Apart from these 4 regional offices, there are also TLTB sub-regional offices in Savusavu, Sigatoka, Korovou and Rakiraki.
Opportunities to lease native land can also be found with the Native Land Bank, which is managed by the Ministry of Lands’ Land Use Unit. This oversees all types of tenure (including Freehold and Crown) from consenting landowners for investment and lease at market rates. The Land Bank is particularly aimed at unused and undeveloped tracts of land.
You may visit TLTB offices for listings of available native land to invest in. Processing times typically take four months, as lease applications are screened by estate offices and then senior estate offices, with final decisions signed off by regional managers.
The TLTB Nadi Office is the only one that handles all tourism leases so if you are an investor seeking native land for a resort operation or any other tourism-related venture, it is the TLTB South Western Office in Nadi that you must liaise with. This is for tourism leases on native land anywhere in Fiji. This office is a convenient five-minute drive from Fiji’s main international airport in Nadi and can be reached on (Ph:679 672377).
If you wish to sublease for tourism purposes, the appropriate form needs to be filled and lodged with a fee of FJD$1,150.00. The draft sublease will be vetted by the TLTB to ensure its conditions are aligned to that of the original lease (head lease) between the tenant and the landowners. The TLTB will then decide consent of the tourism sublease, particularly if it’s for the sublease of a resort development. A full application of this needs to be verified by the TLTB.
The sales price, terms and conditions of the subleases is decided by the original lease (head lease) between the tenant and landowner. However, the land being subleased must first be surveyed, with approved subdivision for portions of a lease that will be subleased.
The TLTB notes the following:
- “If there are conditions of sublease in the head lease, then the percentage (%) consideration needs to be paid too before TLTB consent or through undertaking from the head lesses.
- If the company is the sub-lessee then all company documents should be submitted to include the certificate of company registration, article of association, memorandum of company and details of directors and the company’s Tax Identification Number (TIN).
If you want to register a sublease after consent is granted, the form needs to be submitted to the Registrar of Titles or the Registrar of Deeds.
Foreign investors who want to obtain Fiji agricultural leases, Fiji commercial leases and Fiji industrial leases on native land must have consent from Investment Fiji and the Fijian Government’s Department of Immigration.
For commercial and industrial leases, the application fee is FJD $100.00.
For agricultural leases, the application fee is FJD $50.00.
It is important to note that if the land you want to lease is within a native reserve, then consent from over 60% of the landowners (aged 18+) is required, for de-reservation.
If you’re applying as a company, you must show proof of company registration and evidence of company income, employment period, business projections and cash flow, a 5-year business plan and the locality or plan of the area you want the lease(s) for.
Where applicable, an Environmental Impact Assessment is also necessary, particularly for large scale mining, commercial and tourism ventures.
Residential Leases on Native Land
The application fees for a residential lease on Native land is FJD$50, and the maximum term is usually 99-years.
Special leases are also available for educational, government and local government, recreational, religious, tourism and cable / pipeline investments. Completed application forms are required alongside an application fee of FJD $500.00.
Companies wanting a permit and license to extract sand and gravel have certain conditions, such as 460 cubic metres a month for aggregate quantities. These investors must apply for a permit to extract sand and gravel alongside a completed consent form from landowners, an Environmental Impact Assessment report and an application fee of FJD $500.00.
Sand and gravel extraction permits allow a maximum of 460 cubic metres per month, however companies and investors wanting to extract aggregate quantities or in longer timeframes can apply for sand and gravel extraction leases. They must submit a completed application form and landowners consent form alongside an application fee of FJD $500.00.
State-owned land in Fiji is typically referred to as Crown due to Fiji’s past as a British colony.
Fiji’s Crown lands are administered by the Ministry of Lands & Mineral Resources.
Similar to Native land, Crown land can only be leased and not purchased outright.
About 4% Fiji’s land mass is Crown, with 18,000 leases.
There are several types of Crown land which are categorized according to their acquisition:
- Schedule A is Native land that was transferred to the State due to the extinction of their (indigenous) owners. Fiji’s traditional culture is patrilineal so thus, these extinctions are usually referenced to male living members of landowning units. As per Fiji’s Native Land Ordinance and the i Taukei Land Trust Act, lands of extinct owners are transferred to the i Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB), which administers all Native-owned land. There are over 149,000 Schedule A lands that have been reverted.
- Schedule B is land that was unclaimed during the Land Claims Commission which began in 1885 and has been reverted to the i Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB). Over 65,000 Schedule B lands have been reverted.
- State Freehold Land is land acquired by the State from individuals, mostly from the Colonial Sugar Refinery (now known as the Fiji Sugar Corporation). The CSR had estates all over Fiji for its mills and as residential compounds for workers.
- State Foreshore refers to land under waters of rivers and streams and under the high water mark of seas within Fiji’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Although State lands obtained from their original, native landowners cannot be reverted back to them if the land was acquired prior to the 2013 Constitution, there are some exceptions.
The ownership of State land is sometimes reverted to their Native landowners when such lands are no longer necessary by the Fijian Government. These include public spaces such as roads and parklands etc.
For listings of available State land for leasing, refer to the Fijian Government’s Ministry of Lands & Mineral Resources and their National Land Registry.
Aside from privately-owned commercial properties, foreigners seeking commercially-zoned investment opportunities can consider State incentives. Each year, the Fijian Government national budget includes various tax and customs incentives to encourage investors, particularly in undeveloped regions. National Budgets are usually announced mid-year for the next fiscal year so it is important to stay up to date with these policies, as they are usually amended or restructured.
The latest tax policies under the 2017-2018 National Budget cover commercial agriculture, biofuel and accelerate depreciation, which extend from 2018-2028.
For biofuel initiatives, there is a 5 year tax holiday investments between $225k and $1.0 million.
A 7 year tax holiday applies for biofuel investments between $1.0 million and $2.0 million, while there is a 13 year tax holiday for investments that exceed $2.0 million.
Accelerated depreciation applies to buildings used for agriculture, ICT, fisheries and forestry purposes and for new plants and machinery used for manufacturing purposes, water storage facilities, renewable energy plant and machinery. As noted by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, the present accelerated depreciation for all other commercial and industrial purposes ceases from January 1, 2019.
Fiji has several tax-free regions located on its two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. These are mainly along rural and undeveloped stretches in and around towns and cities, which are aimed at enticing investors to expand business opportunities. New tourism developments are also expanding.
In Fiji’s Central division, tax free regions include Kalabu, which has become a point for business process outsourcing (BPO) services such as Mindpearl Fiji.
In Fiji’s Western division, tax free zones include Wairebatia, located on the outskirts of Lautoka City. This tax-free zone has proximity to the Kings Port in Lautoka , which is Fiji’s largest port for bulk cargo, and is being touted as a services and manufacturing hub to promote exports and imports, with proximity to the Nadi International, Fiji’s main global gateway.
In Fiji’s Northern division, tax free zones include Balaga Bay on the outskirts of Savusavu Town. Balaga entails 16 acres of Freehold and lays in the tourism centre of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island.
Alongside the exemption on Capital Gains Tax, payments for Stamp Duty are eliminated on property transfers made through love and affection.
Viti Levu is considered Fiji’s main island and home to its capital, Suva City, Lautoka City, Nadi Town, Ba Town and the smaller towns of Sigatoka (located along Fiji’s Coral Coast), Tavua, Rakiraki, Korovou, Nausori and Navua. Viti Levu has two main highways: the Queens Rd runs from Lautoka City to Suva City, on the bottom half of Viti Levu. The Kings Road runs from Lautoka City to Nausori, (near Suva), along the top half of Viti Levu. The highway from Nausori to Suva is Princess Road.
Vanua Levu is home to Savusavu Town and Labasa town and has a single main road route, Hibiscus Highway which cuts through the provinces of Macuata and Bua. Fiji’s second largest island is famed for exquisite natural surroundings and is a tourism hot spot.