Community Confusion and Despair

Community Confusion and Despair

The Special Agricultural Business Lease [SABL] process has created confusion and despair across Papua New Guinea. In theory, before any SABL agreements, contracts, or similar, there shall be a documented phase of general awareness-raising, and landowner identification. This phase is referred to as Free Prior Informed Consent.

However, this agreement stage was absent in the majority of the SABLs, which lead to division and inter-clan violence in once close communities. Canopy Watch discusses the state of New Hanover politicized culture at its workshop. It is clear that in a post-SABL Papua New Guinea, the island of New Hanover is scarred and still suffering the impact of the industrialized logging industry.

SABL's Impoverishment

SABL's Impoverishment

Economically invisible and politically silent communities are prey to development practices that focus on rapid extraction. Community representatives may not be aware of the extent to which their environmental endowment will be compromised when agreeing with a potential developer. Traditionally livelihoods have been sustainably interlinked with the forests and the reefs on New Hanover for over four thousand years. The Island has now been stripped of its resources by unregulated logging, causing unassessed impoverishment.

The Canopy Watch listens to Monica's Voice on life in New Hanover before and after the SABL policy.

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New Hanover Abandoned

New Hanover Abandoned

In 2016 Canopy Watch made an expedition in New Hanover to asset the impact of the logging there. The intention was to follow the logging roads into Central New Hanover's SABL that we visited in 2012, but this was no longer politically possible. We investigated the impact of logging and assessed the extent of the promised agricultural development that had taken place. We aimed to bring attention to the issues in New Hanover. It was clear the forest conversion process was a cover for industrial logging that has resulted in an extremely high impact on Riparian Buffer Zones and ecosystem services. The Min River Expedition led directly to Global Witness, highlighting this area as a section of their Stained Trade Report in 2017.

At the end of 2018, we reviewed the area and confirmed the developers had deserted the island. The Special Agricultural Business Lease had not lead to the promised agricultural development. The forest conversation was purely a logging operation that decimated the ecosystem collapsing forest dependant communities' economic resources.

THE SABL DISPUTES

Canopy Watch 2012 Election Broadcast in Papua New Guinea

In 2012 Canopy Watch was launched with an awareness appeal broadcast on prime time national television before the Papua New Guinea Elections. At this election, the nation awaited the delayed Commission of Inquiry Final Report on Special Agricultural Business Leases. This policy that had ripped into customary owned land to set land aside for agricultural development. However, it became clear that the new lease system policy was a fast-track way for logging companies to circumvent the forestry act.

LAVONGAI CHIEFTAINSHIP CEREMONY

New Hanover Rich Cultural Tapestry

Canopy Watch captured the inauguration of John Aini as a Traditional Leader in Lavongai, now referred to as New Hanover. His Chieftainship Ceremony in 2012 created an interlocking of the cultures of New Hanover and New Ireland for the first time in over 80 years. While this celebration took place in the South East of the Island, the new Special Agricultural Business Leaseholder's started the process of stripping the timber assets from Central New Hanover, clear-felling a resource-rich island that had sustained human settlements for over 4000 years. The customs and traditions of New Hanover's population are now in an unwanted transition, as the abundant natural resources that sustained them becomes degraded and diminished.

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COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO SABL

FINAL REPORT CRITIQUE

Paul Barker Institute of National Affairs

In 2016 the Canopy Watch Network conducted a review of the state of affairs regarding the Commission of Inquiry's Final Report on SABL's. How have the customary landowners been affected, have the recommendations of the commission been carried out? Canopy Watch had the opportunity of asking Paul Barker, Executive Director, from the Institute of National Affairs in Port Moresby.

 

Destruction of the Raparian Zone

New Hanover Impact

One of the main breaches in the logging code of practice is not respecting the buffer zone to waterways a practice that would protect the ecosystem dynamic that preserves the traditional system's environmental endowment. There should be a minimum of a 50-meter buffer to a class one river. The logging operations in New Hanover do not follow this practice. There are unseen impacts of unregulated logging on low-level forest extracting methods such as community forest garden produce, river and reef fish stock, and domestic water supplies.

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Gabriel Mollock

Traditional Land Tenure System

Gabriel Mollock community leader in Turubu explains the complicated process of customary land ownership in Papua New Guinea. He expresses the need for proper social mapping in the introductory phrase of large-scale agricultural development projects. It is not development; development is about people, improvement of their standard of living, quality of life, and infrastructure. But looking at what is happening right now, it is like ripping off our resources.

 

JOHN AINI

A Name for Destruction

John Aini, a lecturer at the National Fisheries College of Papua New Guinea and the founder and director of Ailan Awareness, a small NGO in New Ireland, presents his few on the implications of SABL's in New Hanover. As a traditional leader, John has informed and guided the work of Canopy Watch into the insights of communities living alongside industrial logging.