Lautoka is the second largest city of
Fiji. It is in the west of the island of Viti Levu, 24 kilometers north of Nadi, and is the second port of entry in Fiji, after Suva. Lying in the heart of Fiji's sugar canegrowing region, it is known as the Sugar City. Covering an area of 16 square kilometers, it had a population of 42,917 at the 1996 census, the last held to date.
Lautoka is known as the "Sugar City" because of its sugar cane belt areas. The main
Lautoka Sugar Millis the city's biggest employer by far. Built for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (Fiji)(CSR) by imported labourers from Indiaand the Solomon Islandsbetween 1899 and 1903, it hires some 1300 employees today. Other industries include timber milling, garment manufacturing, distillery, brewery, jewellery, blending, steelworks, fishing, hatchery, domestic items, paints, and construction.
The name of the city is derived from two Fijian words meaning "spear hit." According to an oral tradition, the name arose following a duel between two chiefs. As one speared the other, he was reported to have cried "Lau-toka!"
The first known European sighting of the Lautoka area took place on
7 May 1789. Captain William Blighspotted and roughly charted the coasts of Lautoka while making his epic voyage to Timor, in the wake of the Mutiny on the Bountyin which he and a few sailors loyal to him were thrown overboard and cast adrift on a life boat.
Incorporated as a
townin 1929, Lautoka was proclaimed a cityon 25 February 1977. It is governed by a 16-member city council, who elect from among themselves a Mayor. Bijesh Chandof the Fiji Labour Party(FLP) was elected Mayor in 2005, succeeding Rajendra Goundar, also of the FLP. Chand later left the party, however, and contested the municipal elections of October-November 2005 as an independent candidate. He lost his seat. The FLP won 12 seats and the United Fiji Party(SDL) 4.
Lautoka is at present the only city in Fiji's Western Division, which contains more than 50 percent of the nation's population. It is also the headquarters of the
Fiji Electricity Authority, the Fiji Pine Ltd, and the National Marketing Authority.
Since 1970, the population of Lautoka has grown rapidly, and in the last twenty years it has also changed dramatically in structure. In the early 1970s the population was estimated to be about 12,000, the vast majority of inhabitants being Indian, as would be expected considering the early growth of the city was entirely associated with the sugar industry. About half of the present Indian inhabitants are descendants of the early
girmityas. In 1986 the population was 39,000 and in 1996 almost 43,000, but it is not clear exactly how the boundaries of the urban area were defined at either of these censuses. In 2005 the population including the suburban zones was probably about 50,000, occupying a total area of about 16 km². The population of Lautoka including the rural districts is around 80,000. But much of the recent growth of the city itself has been due to indigenous Fijians moving into the urban area.
The city is the birthplace of
PGA TourHall of Famer Vijay Singh.
* [http://www.lautokacity.org Lautoka]
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