World Monuments Watch
Ovalau, Fiji

1998 World Monuments Watch

Soon after British colonization, the first Fijian capital was established at Levuka in 1877. Although a settlement had been in place before that, capital designation brought about a major building of churches, social and civic institutions, humble bungalows, and a wide variety of Victorian, neo-Gothic, and even false-fronted commercial buildings. Within only three years, though, the Fijian capital was moved to the main island and Levuka became a kind of time capsule of vernacular and British colonial-style architecture. The town was left with a meager economic base and over the last century it has remained in a state of benign neglect. The ethnically diverse town of 2,500 has been feeling the effects, though, of that malaise – insufficient tourist facilities, government indifference, and deteriorating buildings. A rigorous review process for new buildings, maintenance guidelines, preservation apprenticeship programs, and other civic management issues need to be implemented. Levuka remains intact but without such measures the town will lose its strong sense of place.

Since the Watch

Following Watch listing, in 2000 a Department of Culture and Heritage was first formed in Fiji. Inscription of Levuka on the World Heritage List was a priority for the new Department and for local citizens, and it was accomplished in 2013. Researchers from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, contributed to the nomination effort, which involved significant original research on the history of the former capital. Meanwhile, a management plan for the historic town of Levuka and the island of Ovalau was prepared with the involvement of local stakeholders. A government decree has now placed the new World Heritage Site under special protection status and has charged a committee with the implementation of the management plan. December 2013

Last updated: June 2018.

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