We stayed at our favorite 'el cheapo,' Beachside Resort which is owned and operated by Kiwis Phil and Jane. A fabulous but simple menu with extremely reasonable prices. You must go there. The best fish curry and chicken curry ever. A pleasant air conditioned room for two for around NZ$75 per night and NZ$7 gets you anywhere you want to go in a beat up local cab. Exchange rate currently is 0.75.
Beats the hell out of paying $350 per night at Denarau. We talked to some people who took up one of the 'red hot specials' offered for Denarau. You know the story. Discounted airfares and accommodation. What they didn't tell you was that you can't afford to eat and drink there once you arrive. $60 for a sirloin steak and the cheapest bottle of wine is $60!!!!!!! BTW the hotel buys them in for $13 per bottle.
There were severe floods in January and since our first annual visit in 1992, I have never seen the roads in such a state of disrepair. A taxi driver told us the government has no money to repair them.
We went to the Aussie butcher in Nandi and stocked up on rump steak, bacon, smoked ham, Italian sausages, breakfast sausages, chicken drumsticks - about $80 all up. Flew across to the time share and froze some steak, drumsticks and sausies. That did us for the whole week, along with 2kg of the best rice I have ever tasted.
Now what about the politics of the joint?
Nowhere did I hear a bad word about Commodore Bainimarama. We know a number of businesspeople in the Nandi area and their commentary was revealing along with that of taxi drivers, hotel staff and local roadside stall holders. There is widespread anger and it is directed not at the local regime but at New Zealand and Australia.
The local tourism industry has been crucified by Australia's and New Zealand's intemperate and malicious adverse travel advisories. Adolf and The Cook visited seven resorts while we were there and in our judgment occupancy on average was around ten to fifteen percent. It's hard to calculate but we think that in the Nandi /Coral Coast area alone, probably five thousand full time jobs have been lost.
The truth of the matter is that people visiting Western Fiji are no more in danger than they would be visiting Takapuna or Bondi. (For that matter, neither are those visiting Suva.) When The Cook told her sister in WA that we were going to Fiji the silly bitch asked "Are you sure you'll be alright with all the trouble over there?"
That's the level of irreparable damage which has been done to the livelihoods of ordinary Fijians by our two countries' outrageously irresponsible behaviour. The propaganda has worked.
Since the Commodore took power, corruption in the public service and elsewhere has subsided if not disappeared. Why? Because Fiji is an inherently violent society and people know that if they are caught they will have the shit kicked out of them. It is NOT New Zealand.
Corruption at all levels was estimated to be adding between 25% and 30% to the cost of just about EVERYTHING. For example, you would wonder how it could be that a coastal piece of prime residential land would be quietly rezoned commercial and opened up for resort development. No hearings, no objections. Still wondering? Oh well, it just so happened apparently that the prime minister of the day suddenly became the owner of two choice blocks in a resulting subdivision.
None of Adolf's contacts in Western Fiji could recall ever seeing anyone from New Zealand's High Commission during this past two or three years. It appears our government only hears the opinions of those who are on the insiders' list in the Suva beltway. John Key and Murray McCully are being hoodwinked by left leaning bureaucrats. I'm told our loud mouthed ex High Commissioner (personal friend of Helen Clark) was running around Suva bad mouthing the regime at every opportunity. She was explicitly warned that if she continued she would be asked to leave. Journalists Dreaver and Field were described to me as 'trouble makers.'
There is evidence of huge investment in tourism in the Nandi area. God knows where the people will come from but it appears the capital is flowing in from India and Communist China. Certainly makes the fools from Bridgecorp and Hanover look like the amateurish crooks they are. One rumour doing the rounds is that the Commodore has been offered US$300 mil by the Chinese government. That would be very tempting were it not for the price tag. Residency for between 4,000 and 7,000 selected Chinese immigrants. Selected by China not Fiji, of course.
We met a Fijian school teacher and his wife. He asked us what we thought of the devaluation. It became apparent he was confusing the devaluation of the currency with the reduction of public service salaries by three percent some months earlier. When I asked him if he would prefer to have no job rather than 97% of his previous salary he shuffled his feet and chose to be employed.
You see, now that much of the corruption has been rooted out, he is actually better off financially but of course his Labour affiliated union would not want him to know that. Adolf has seen corruption in Argentina and Brazil. Believe me, the Bainimarama remedy is far more palatable than the South American version which usually involves revolutionaries with AK47s shooting up all and sundry.
Interesting times. Mike Moore is right.
My prediction is that unless John Key and Kevin Rudd wake up very soon indeed, they will be too late to prevent a sea change in the political landscape of the South Pacific. China will have it's Pacific based aircraft carrier and all for less than one tenth the cost of the USS Reagan, while New Zealand's prestige and influence in our neighborhood will have been permanently damaged.