28 Oct 2013

Solomons landowners working on legal protection of loggers' target

6:22 pm on 28 October 2013

A conservationist in Solomon Islands' Western Province says rural landowners who live in the city are pressuring their communities to agree to logging deals.

Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Association is working to bring forest targeted by a logging company under national protective legislation before an injunction barring the operation is lifted.

The association's co-ordinator says Viuru Forest Enterprises works with a Malaysian company and he understands there are plans to plant oil palm and other cash crops once the land is cleared.

Ferguson Vaghi says some local people want the operation, in which the prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has an interest, to proceed but they are influenced by urban relatives. He spoke to Annell Husband.

FERGUSON VAGHI: There is a lot of misconception, misunderstanding, on the issue of beneficiaries. The family itself tells that the logging companies operating in the Solomons really don't benefit a lot of people. But there are a lot of members of the community who really invite logging companies to exploit them. We know that they have very little knowledge of the importance of forest and all this. So we try to educate them to ensure that this is the basis of our society. There are people that come from the cities and towns who are part of the [Indistinct] as well who are infringing the local communities or resource owners. We doubt they really see both sides of the coin. So that's the very sad thing about the logging deal in our country, especially in our island. The local communities are not really given the full light [on] logging.

ANNELL HUSBAND: So it's the wantoks in the city who still have a say in how the land is used, they come and influence the people without putting the full story forward about what's actually going to happen, what benefit there is going to be to the local people.

FV: Definitely.

AH: Right.

FV: Would you say the prime minister is in that category?

AH: Well, maybe in terms of the prime minister, maybe he's talking about the importance of our economy on that part, but the land does belong to the tribes and all this, so we really need to have an understanding from the general consensus of the tribes and the community. Whilst we want money, whilst we want our country to develop, it is important that the local communities are well informed of the issues of logging and the beneficiaries and the impact of all this development so that the tribes and the community can make a tough decision on whatever happens.