Number Fourteen: 28 November 2002
East Awin Landowners withdraw support
for logging deal
The landowner’s decision effectively splits in half the proposed East Awin Forest Management Agreement leaving what was already a flawed project now totally unviable.
The landowners of the Pari Tribe in the remote northern region of Western province have written to the Forest Authority requesting that the land belong to their four clans be removed from the controversial East Awin FMA (see below).
This is a blow to the government of Michael Somare who have been trying to push the National Forest Board to approve a timber permit for the East Awin project as well as accelerating the allocation of several other logging projects.
The Minister for Forests had ordered the National Forest Board to meet in October to allocate the East Awin permit (see below). But this has so far been blocked by a court action brought against the National Forest Board by the Western Provincial government.
It appears that the proposed logging project has many defects, including a lack of landowner support, insufficient timber for a sustainable operation and a failure to developed the project according to the framework specified in the Forestry Act.
Bizarrely, the Forest Authority wants to see the logging permit given to a ‘two-kina’ company, GL Niugini, that has no assets or logging experience. Worse still, the supposed landowner company, Apka Investments, that claims to represent all the East Awin landowners and that backs GL Niugini, (see below) has only 3 shareholders.
But it seems that the Pari landowners are not as gullible or naïve as the Forest Authority and they are not going to allow their valuable forest resources to be squandered in another poorly considered and obviously inept logging deal between the government and the foreign logging industry.
The removal of the Pari lands from the logging deal effectively carves in half the available forest resource making any sustainable logging operation unviable (see below).
This will come as a blow to Rimbunan Hijau who has been using the Forest Industry Association to lobbying directly with politicians and government officials to secure the smooth allocation of the East Awin timber permit.
But there is another interesting twist to this story. The company that has written to the Forest Authority on behalf of the Pari landowners is Paiso limited. Remember that this company is the permit holder for the much maligned and illegal Kiunga Aiambak logging project, which is also in Western Province and not far from East Awin.
The logging company that has been contracted by Paiso to fell and export logs from Kiunga Aiambak is RH rivals, Concord Pacific.
It seems that this new conflict over East Awin is further evidence of the on-going battle between Concord and RH to gain access to the forests of Western Province – see Masalai 2, June 5th 2002.