26 Jun 2013

World Heritage inscription result of 30 years of hard work: Levuka Council

4:57 pm on 26 June 2013

Will hopefully have pkg by tuesday arvo.

The Fijian town of Levuka has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The announcement was made in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh over the weekend, to the delight of the Fijian contingent in attendance.

The Chief Executive of the Levuka Town Council, Suliana Sandys, says the people in the former capital are on cloud nine, and the announcement follows 30 years of hard work by the townsfolk.

SULIANA SANDYS: It's terrific. People are still trying to get it to sink in, you know? It's taken almost 30 long years.

JAMIE TAHANA: And what's the general mood around the town about it?

SS: Well, people are shaking hands with one another. Our phone hasn't stopped ringing, really. For some who don't really understand what it means, they're still questioning what is happening. But for those who have been working long and tirelessly, they're on cloud number nine, I might say.

JT: And what does it mean for Levuka to be placed on this list?

SS: Well, Levuka, economically, since they've redirected the shipping routes, they've taken away some of the economic activities that used to be here to Suva. Levuka has economically died a slow death, a slow painful one, too. And the older people of the town, in '73, decided that the only thing we had was a special brand of tourism, which was heritage, actually, and the history of the town. So this would mean a slight increase in the tourism activities here in Levuka.

JT: How much of an increase do you expect from tourism here?

SS: Speaking with one of the notable boat-owners here, he reckoned that out of the 60,000 passengers they were transporting, only 3% were overseas tourists. On the main, they were local tourists who were coming back for family reunions, school reunions, etc. But we haven't put a percentage to those who come in on the flights and those who come in on the cruise ships, which is beginning to call regularly. This is Blue Lagoon Cruises and Beachcomber and things like that. But a slight increase, I would say from maybe 15% to 20%. We've got to consider the infrastructure here, as well, how many can we accommodate.

JT: What does Levuka have that warranted it being inscribed on the World Heritage list?

SS: For us, it was basically just the heritage and the history of the place. Levuka. it's really an extinct volcano which was developed at the centre of commercial activities by the European colonisers in the South Pacific. The remnants are still here today, and it's been kept intact by a lot of good people, and these are the things that we need to take care of.