A group of 17 community leaders and chiefs from New Caledonia recently visited the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) office in Nabua, Suva to learn about sustainable land management and conflict minimisation.

Antoine Esteban, delegation coordinator, said that this was a fact-finding mission, the aim of which was to use what they learned to improve their own system of land tenure and management.

The Economic and Social Council of New Caledonia delegation was briefed by Acting Director of SPC's Land Resource Division (LRD) Mr Inoke Ratukalou and his team on issues of land ownership and access to land for development in the Pacific region.

'It is important to host such a delegation and provide them with the information, as it will encourage sustainable land development in the region,' Mr Ratukalou said.

'We get an opportunity to share our expertise with them and at the same time hear their innovative ideas that can be passed on to other SPC member countries.'

He added that the idea of setting aside funds for development of native lands was excellent and could be explored further.

'We at LRD are more than pleased to assist in any way that contributes to improving the livelihood of our communities, and such an exchange of ideas is an excellent way of doing this.'

Antoine Esteban was pleased with the response from the LRD team and mentioned that their visit to SPC had given the delegates a wealth of ideas on land ownership and leasing arrangements.

'The land tenure system in New Caledonia is different from that in Fiji but there are certain concepts that can be easily assimilated into our system,' he said. 'The existence of land boundaries and the Land Commission in Fiji is of great interest to us.

'This visit is part of the nation's preparation for 2014, when the people will decide whether to remain with France or become an independent state.'

The group also met with Fiji's Itaukei Land Trust Board and Ministry of Lands personnel before leaving Fiji on Saturday 1 October, 2011.