26 Mar 2004

Solomons security concerns stop logging on PNG border

1:38 pm on 26 March 2004

The head of Solomon Islands Forestry Department says security concerns led it to suspend a logging licence concerning operations on the border with Papua New Guinea.

The department has suspended a licence held by Earthmovers and the Allardyce Lumber Company to log native forest on Ovau Island, right on the formerly troubled Bougainville border

Tione Bugotu, the department head, says the request to suspend the licence came directly from the Minister of Foreign Affairs who worried it was fuelling tensions.

"On both sides of the border you have the same extended family groups who would claim right to whatever logging practice that takes place on Ovau. And this was seen as a potential problem. It may create some sort of difficulty or row and would jeopardise our current efforts to secure a border agreement."

Tione Bugotu says the department also believes the licence may not have been issued properly to begin with, and has suspended it indefinitely.