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Fiji property market sluggish as Kiwi interest drains

New Zealand investors have always been the biggest investors in Fiji. It is just three hours away by plane. They have snapped up waterfront land, bought large estates and built holiday homes.

'We've noticed quite a large decline in foreign investors across the board. I don't think it's really related to our political situation, it's really not that bad,' said Shivas Singh chief executive of real estate company Harcourts Fiji, referring to Fiji's 2006 political coup.

'The sun is still shining here and the beer tastes good. But it's what's happening in real estate in New Zealand. I don't think Kiwis have that much disposable income now,' he added.

The downturn has particularly affected exclusive locations such as Naisoso Island and Denarau where buyers spend $1million-plus or the high end of five figures to secure a piece of waterfront land in Fiji where only 8% of land is freehold.

While well-heeled Fijian citizens, including successful expatriates and internationals such as Australians buy at the luxury end it is New Zealanders who have been the big clients.

They have traditionally favoured large houses with landscaped gardens, swimming pools and boat moorings on purpose built canals.

One developer is bullish. On Naisoso Island property developer Bob Lowres said global credit crunches and military coups don't seriously affect what those with money decide to do. 'The people who buy in Fiji are on their fourth or fifth or sixth homes, not their first homes,' he said.

However a number of investors still do not know if they are going to recover their money from a $50 million resort in Momi after the developers Bridgecorp Finance collapsed. Receivers are currently trying to rescue the resort which is partly built and planned to include a hotel, golf course and villas.