Because the deeds attached record three different currencies, I reduced them all to pounds sterling at the rate of exchange of the time they were purchased.
The Naiviriviri property of 857 acres sold on April 29, 2011, for NZD 648,000, or GPB 309,031, or 361 pounds per acre.
The Nayavu 1 property of 401 acres sold on Jul 18, 2012, for FJD 401,000, or GBP 140,029, or 349 pounds per acre.
The Nayavu 2 property of 528 acres sold on Oct 17, 2012 for FJD 200,000 or GBP 68,720 or 130 pounds per acre.
The average of these three properties is 361 + 349 + 130 = 840: 3 = 280 pounds per acre.
In contrast, the Natoavatu Estate sold on May 30 2014 for AUD 9.3 m or GBP 5.1 million or 937 pounds per acre, more than three times the price per acre, even though the Natoavatu estate is much larger and should therefore have a discount per acre.
The property is more than half made up of thick jungle on steep hills unfit for agriculture or habitation, and could support a few more hundred people at most, according to the villages and to one expert. For I-Kiribatis to grow food there for export to Tarawa would require providing them with housing and training and would cost far more than simply to purchase the produce in markets in Suva and ship it to Tarawa, as is already being done.
There are 270 Solomon Islanders living in Naviavia, a village at the center of the estate. Naviavia is located on the east-west road that crosses the estate, which is oriented mostly north-south, through the middle. The government said in announcing the sale that all Solomon Islanders had left the property. This is misleading but technically correct. Archbishop Winston Halapua, who heads the Anglican Church’s Polynesian Diocese, the seller of the property, told me the 310 acres in which Naviavia sits have been carved out of the estate, kept by the Church’s Polynesian Diocese, and leased to the Solomon islanders for 99 years at no cost. Any development of the property would require the cooperation of the Solomon Islanders, who are unhappy that the Church, to maximize the sale price, sold to Kiribati 400 acres that they used for grazing and farming.
The government of Fiji supported the sale but declined to comment to me on whether it was aware of the extraordinarily high price paid by Kiribati, one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita that is less than half that of Fiji.
For more details on the land purchase, see my article in the June issue of the Fiji magazine Republika. Click on this symbol > on the opening page to get to the article, which opens with a picture of Naviavia.