Reformed Vanuatu land procedures finally roll out
Reformed Vanuatu land laws are finally being implemented after a year of delays as the Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu talks about handing over the first negotiator certificates over lease applications for customary land.
Reformed Vanuatu land laws are finally being implemented after a year of delays.
The Minister of Lands Ralph Regenvanu has handed over the first negotiator certificates to be issued for lease applications for customary land.
A certificate gives the green light for a potential leasee to negotiate with customary landowners on the terms of a lease agreement.
Mr Regenvanu told Johnny Blades the certificates are approved by the Land Management Planning Committee which includes relevant national and local government agencies.
RALPH REGENVANU: They will look at the application, and if they agree that the lease is appropriate, according to planning guidelines and according to priorities of the government in the particular location the land is being applied for, they sign off on it, and then it goes to the customary land management office which then determines who is the customary owner of the land, or the custom owners of the land, or if the land is in dispute who the disputed parties are, and then they ask them: 'are they interested in such a lease on their land? Are they interested in talking to the potential leasee about doing a lease?' And if the do agree, then a negotiation certificate is issued which gives them a year to finalise their lease agreement.
JOHNNY BLADES: The government says it's got this aim of having 15 negotiation certificates issued within the first 100 days. I mean, is that likely? These are quite complex processes, aren't they?
RR: We developed the aim of 15 after consultation with the Custom Land Management Office, and they came up with that figure. So they feel confident that they can get 15 done, which are already in process.
JB: It's all about making sure disputes over land are sorted out before land leases are issued and things like that?
RR: Yes, there's two basic principles to the new land laws which we're now starting to see the certificates being issued for. The first one is that the government as a whole has to agree on a lease -- it's not only the minister, which was the previous case. We just had a Supreme Court ruling come through a couple of weeks ago where the government is liable for 45 million vatu because the minister signed an improper lease unlawfully. So it stops all that kind of stuff, it stops all the backhand underhand dealings, you know going around the back and visiting the minister. It basically removes the power of the minister, that's exactly this process - that's one side. The other side is to do with the identification of the customary owners, and the laws are designed to meet the standard of free prior informed consent of the customary owners of the land, and so the law requires explanation to the customary owners in the place they live about what the lease is for, they have time to discuss, and then all of them have to come back and say, 'yes we agree to it.'
JB: Was this part of the land reforms that you'd put in place sort of the removal of the Natuman government and then of course Paul Telukluk had a stint again in the role?
RR: Yes. Thee are actually the first negotiations to be issued for customary land since the laws were changed. So the process is a lot more stringent. These could have happened a lot earlier but we had to suspend the whole implementation of the land laws after Cyclone Pam at the beginning of last year. So for a whole six months we suspended the implementation of these new laws to focus on relief to the population. And then midway through last year, the former minister of lands Paul Telukluk came in (replacing Mr Regenvanu in the role for a stint) and announced that he was giong to repeal all the laws and so he stopped implementation for another six months until the election, and then now that we're back in, we're now rolling it out and it's starting to happen. That's the intention.
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