The Commonwealth Local Government Forum has its Pacific regional office in Suva, where it works to promote and strengthen democratic local government and encourage the exchange of good practice in the Pacific region. The country is an archipelago of about 300 islands (100 inhabited) and 540 islets, spread over 3 million sq km, and has some 1,130km of coastline.
The Republic of Fiji lies 1,850km north of Auckland, New Zealand, and 2,800km north-east of Sydney, Australia. It consists of about 300 islands (100 inhabited) and 540 islets, spread over 3 million sq km. It is surrounded by the island groups of (clockwise from north) Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The largest islands are Viti Levu (‘Great Fiji’), Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu.
Suva (capital, pop. 194,900 in 2010, comprising Nasinu 88,600 and Lami 20,600), Nausori (55,500), Lautoka (55,200), Nadi (47,000) and Ba (16,200) on Viti Levu; and Labasa (28,400) on Vanua Levu.
3,440km of roads, 49% paved. The network is vulnerable to flooding and hurricane damage. A coastal road encircles Viti Levu, linked by smaller roads to the villages of the interior.
Lautoka, in the north-west of Viti Levu, is the main port; others are Suva, Levuka and Savusavu. Ferry services operate between the larger islands.
The main international airport is in western Viti Levu, at Nadi. Nausori, near Suva, is the hub for inter-island flights, and receives some international services. Most islands have airports or landing strips.
Fiji is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Fiji was suspended from participation in the Pacific Islands Forum in May 2009, pending the country’s return to constitutional democracy through free and fair elections.
Much of Fiji is volcanic in origin, with the larger islands featuring heavily populated coastal plains and uninhabited mountainous interiors. Many of the smaller islands have coral reefs. The highest point is Mt Tomanivi on Viti Levu (1,323m). The main rivers are the Sigatoka, Rewa and Ba on Viti Levu and the Dreketi on Vanua Levu; their deltas contain most of the country’s arable land.
The climate is tropical and oceanic. South-east trade winds prevail; day temperatures range from 20 to 29°C and humidity is high. The rainy season is November to March throughout the country, though there is rain during June-September. On average, the country is affected by a hurricane every other year, for example Cyclone Ami in January 2003.
The most significant environmental issues are deforestation and soil erosion
The distribution of the rainfall is the determining factor in the country’s vegetation. Dense forests and coastal mangrove swamps are found in the east and grasslands, with coconut palms on the coasts, in the west. Forest covers 56% of the land area. Indigenous sandalwood resources were exhausted in the 19th century.
Fiji is home to six species of bat, including four fruit bats (flying-foxes), and the Polynesian rat. All other mammals have been introduced, mainly during the 19th and 20th centuries. There are more than 100 species of birds and several snakes and lizards, including the recently discovered crested iguana. Fiji’s waters contain turtles, sharks, eels and prawns