Special Agricultural Business Leases
Papua New Guinea traditionally has had strong indigenous land ownership, which is enshrined in its national constitution. Over the past two decades, the country has experienced a dramatic increase in industrial logging, mining, natural-gas projects and other large-scale developments, and the formal permission of a majority of traditional local land-owners is required for such projects to proceed.
Unfortunately, abuses of trust with local communities have occurred far too often, especially concerning the SABLs. SABLs significantly diminish the rights of traditional owners for long periods of time while promoting industrial-scale logging, deforestation for oil palm plantations, or other extractive uses. Most of these industrial applications are dominated by foreign or multinational corporations. In 2010 alone, 2.6 million hectares of SABLs were granted, all for protracted 99-year terms, bringing the area of land alienated from customary owners in PNG to almost 5 million hectares.
These Leases frequently appear to have been made without the prior knowledge and informed consent of the majority of customary owners, alienating for several generations the lands on which they depend and have long relied.
Heavy impact logging practices are prevalent in native forests Papua New Guinea (PNG) is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. PNG’s remarkable diversity of cultural groups relies intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other products and services. Nearly all of PNG’s land area is presently occupied or claimed by one or more of its traditional indigenous communities.
SABLs have been used to circumvent prevailing efforts to reform the forestry industry in PNG, which has long been plagued by allegations of mismanagement and corruption. They also are designed to promote industrial developments on an unprecedented scale within PNG while diminishing the rights of traditional landowners.Raising the living standards of the people of Papua New Guinea is a crucial goal that will require the sustainable exploitation of the country’s natural resources and the development of viable domestic industries. However, development needs to be undertaken in sympathy with the customary land ownerships embodied in the PNG Constitution. It must also operate in concert with ongoing efforts to limit rampant and often predatory industrial exploitation of the country’s forests, lands, and other natural resources, which far too often fail to yield fair or equitable benefits for the majority of PNG citizens. This is the interest not only of the majority of PNG nationals but also of those businesspeople who are presently operating responsibly in PNG.