Minister assures landowners of Woodlark Island

Tuesday September 2, 2014

THE Milne Bay Provincial Government and the landowners of Woodlark Island have been assured that certain portions of their land would be given back.
Lands and Physical Planning Minister, Benny Allan was responding to concerns raised by Milne Bay Governor, Titus Philemon in a recent Parliament sitting regarding the landowner’s plight and the recently signed mining lease.
“Currently, there are established processes that needs to be complied with under Customary Land Act and I assure the governor that my department is working towards declaring State lands on Woodlark Island back as customary lands,” Mr Allan said.
He said at present the portions of land identified as 138, 139 and 140 occupy approximately 70% of the island’s total land mass and these lands cover most parts of the Woodlark mining lease that needs to be forfeited back to the State before being made customary land.
“The reason for this is that the said portions of land as per our land records show that it is owned by Vitroplant Limited which was granted in 2006 under agriculture leases for large scale oil palm project and these leases are current.
He said at the moment the department is working towards serving ‘Show Cause Notice’ to the developer of the defunct multi-million kina oil palm project and subsequent forfeiture process to follow under Section 122 of the Land Act.
“Therefore, in order to proceed with the declaration process, physical inspections must be jointly conducted by the provincial and district administration and referred to the Alienated Land Division. This will allow for the ‘Show Cause Notice’ to be served to the current leaseholder and the forfeiture process to follow. The portions of land must be confirmed vacant State lands before the declaration process under Section 133 of the Land Act can be applied.
Meanwhile, the departments Director of Customary Land Services, Lazarus Malesa also confirmed that its Projects Division is currently consulting and liasing with MRA, the Milne Bay Provincial Administration and Woodlark Mining Limited to conduct and produce the physical inspection reports.     

Hon. Benny Allan, MP
Minister for Lands and Physical Planning