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Forest Minister removes resource owner’s rights

Forest Minister removes resource owner’s rights

In a bold and controversial move the Forest Minister is trying to remove the rights of forest resource owners and Provincial governments to be consulted over the choice of which logging company should harvest a particular forest area.

The National Executive Council has already approved the Minister’s new Forestry Bill and it will shortly be presented to Parliament.

The draft legislation takes away all the rights of local communities and their political representatives to be consulted over the selection of which logging company is given a particular logging permit.

Under the old Forestry Act, Section 59 required the Forest Board to consult with the customary landowners, the Provincial Government and the local Member of Parliament in deciding which logging company should be selected.

But the Forest Minister is seeking to delete the whole of Section 59 from the Forestry Act and block any consultation rights.

The effect of this change is that the owners of a forest area will have no say in which logging company comes in to log their forest. And the Provincial Government and local MP will also have no right to be consulted.

The move by the Forest Minister will effectively seal the decision making power to select a logging company in the corridors of power in Waigani. This is certainly undemocratic, and legal experts are questioning whether the move is unconstitutional and in breach of the Organic Law.

Observers note that the Forest Minister’s decision to take power away from resource owners and the Provinces will increase his own influence over decision making and increase the possibilities for undue political interference in resource allocation.

The PNG Eco-Forestry Forum is calling on all MPs to reject the Forestry Bill when it comes before Parliament and is repeating its call for the Prime Minister to sack the Minister for Forests.

PNG Eco-Forestry Forum

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