Outlining the Vision and Aims of the department

Hon. Benny Allan, MP – Minister for Lands & Physical Planning

In an economy such as ours, where almost over 80 percent of the population's economic activity is in agriculture and land, policy and regulation on these two should not be burdensome: the system in regard to procedures and processes to acquire a land title and credit should be less costly, nearer to the people, rather transparent, efficient, and should be implemented in a simple, consistent way regardless of connections, political affiliation, one's education, or whether man or woman.

That is exactly my vision as the Minister for Lands and Physical Planning to see customary landowners in the country have the maximum benefit from their land in so far as registering their land with the department. 

As the sole regulator of land in Papua New Guinea, the Department of Lands has been on many occasions bombarded with countless negative media publicity with concerns on how land deals were been conducted in the past. 
I must say that there are some positive developments currently happening in the organization, the setbacks and what is expected to improve the image of the department.
Despite the negative publicity about the department, my department secretary, Romilly Kila Pat and I have taken the challenge of its negativity and are now embarking on a number of policy, legislative and administrative areas with the view towards improving its performance. This is so that it can assist the country’s development in a more proactive and transparent way, in order to change the public perception of the department.
One of the aims of the department and the ministry as a whole is to avail land to improve the quality of life for all citizens of PNG. That has and will be the main focus of the land administration system for now and in the future.
For now, the Ministry for Lands and Physical Planning has two folios. The powers available to the minister responsible for lands, generally provides for all land that is alienated as well as  those customary land that is been registered which makes about 3 to 4 % in the country. The powers available to the minister responsible for physical planning are actually far broader and extensive in their impacts and it covers the whole nation.
Prior to the Land Reforms of 2005, the Department of Lands and Physical Planning (DLPP) was considered structurally inefficient and ineffective with a very weak system of administering land services. In order for land to be mobilized for development purposes, there needed to be changes both structurally and administratively and this required a systemic approach to analyse what the problems were, how best land could be accessed for development but at the same time protect the ownership rights of the customary landowners.
At this juncture, let me highlight the changes in terms of the achievements which also captures the challenges or constraints the department is faced with under my leadership as the Lands Minister.

Since being given the responsibility as Minister for Lands and Physical Planning almost over 20 months ago, the Ministry and the Department has seen tangible changes. Notable changes include the relocation of the Ministry and the Department into the newly built and custom made office complex known as ‘Eda Tano Haus’ (Our Land House), the launch of the new computerized titling system, the review of the Land Act 1996, and for the first time after so many years, officers have been disciplined for corrupt land dealings.
Other notable achievements so far have been the establishment of the Complaints Desk which is intended to address the complaints, allegations and many other issues related to land dealings.
As the minister responsible for Lands one of my primary responsibilities is to ensure in the public interest, the land in PNG is used accordance with sound physical planning principles and there is consistency and continuity in the preparation and execution of development plans throughout Papua New Guinea.
Hence, National Sustainable Land Use Policy for Papua New Guinea has now been completed and will be submitted to the National Executive Council. This is a major policy initiative of the government which provides the over-arching policy framework that will guide the planning process in allocation, development and best management of our country’s finite land and land resources so that the use of land is maximized and will benefit the present generation to come.
In view of the concerns by the present government and the public at large on the sustainable development and growth in Port Moresby, I have initiated the process to prepare an overall Urban Development Plan for the National Capital District to address the pressing issues affecting the city and its growing population.
The National Capital District Urban Development Plan has three objectives, they are as follows;

  • The preparation of a broad based 50 years Port Moresby City Development Plan. The primary objectives are to promote Port Moresby as a well-structured city in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Clearly demarcate the existing distribution of predominant land uses within the city and incorporate them into new proposal with the emphasis on their linkages to maintain a viable and sustainable city.
  • To promote efficient traffic flow within the city to reduce the energy costs and green house effects on the environment

The proposed NCD Development Plan has the following outcomes;

  • To prepare Port Moresby land use plan 2015 – 2065
  • To prepare Port Moresby broad land use zoning plan 2015 - 2065
  • To provide Land Release Strategies for Port Moresby and its surrounding areas and
  • To provide Development Policy Statements for the long term development of Port Moresby City.

Work is also progressing on the land audit of all land within the Declared Physical Planning Areas throughout Papua New Guinea. The land audit of NCD is currently in progress to be followed by other provinces throughout PNG. The outcome of the land audit report will identify the extent of land that is under State lease and land under customary tenure.
However, at present the department is unable to accurately determine the extent of land under State land. The land audit report will provide the status of leases given to developers as well as the types of leases provided.
The department is one of the first to devolve powers and functions of Physical Planning and Land Board to seven provinces and is continuing to look into other provinces which will need to meet the requirements for the powers and functions to be devolved.
I support the decentralisation of Lands and Physical Planning Board down to the provinces in the country, which is a way to go for land development. This is so that each province can have their own Lands and Physical Planning Board to plan how they can use their land without waiting for approvals from the National Land Board in so far as allocation and granting of land title is concern.
At present the provinces that have existing Provincial Lands Board include East and West New Britain, Milne Bay, Morobe, New Ireland, NCD and the recently established West Sepik and Madang Land Boards. Those that will have their own lands board soon include East Sepik, Manus and Western Highlands province.
Work is also progressing on collecting outstanding land rentals from State Lease Holders. It is estimated that over K150 million is owed to State by defaulters and it is the intention of the department in collaboration with the Department of Finance to put together the logistics of establishing the first pilot project in NCD and the success of this will be extended  to two other provinces.

While I may talk of the good things, challenges which are mainly encompassed around funding and resources continue to hinder progress. Although funding is allocated, it is not forthcoming and slowness in the disbursement process impedes the implementation of programme activities. The department needs an additional K20 million to ensure priority programmes are fully implemented.  
Another daunting task that continues to impede effective land administration is the lack of commitment by Provincial Administrations to acknowledge the importance of land administration within their provincial structures. It is alarming to note that recent capacity audit of the provincial structures have seen that lands functions are insignificant and structured under some social or economic division.
Therefore, I now call for the respective governors and provincial administrators to create and fund a fully-fledged lands division containing lands allocation officers, surveyors, valuers and physical planners so that functions and powers of the national office can be delegated to the provinces.
While I have the opportunity to talk about constraints, I must continue to stress that land compensation claims have and will continue to hinder development aspirations, particularly on the rationale to release land. Compensation claims currently been vetted by the department amount in excess of K280 million and this figure continue to rise every year.
We have received K25 million under the Development Budget for the Land Access Programme and on this note I must thank the O’Neill-Dion Government for this recognition. While this funding is been made available, it is minimal compared to the amount been vetted by the department.

All in all the public and the development partners should be assured that many changes are occurring in the department. As minister responsible for the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, I’m appealing to the Members of Parliament, the media, international researchers and the general public to work closely with the department. Many at times information or research findings lack data and often there is misreporting because information does not come from the department.
For the way forward the minister is optimistic; “I believe we need to report on the positive side of things and those problems of the past are amendable and we must not continue to report on images that was portrayed a decade ago. We cannot continue to live in the past and we as a department would like your support and the support of the nation to ensure land administration in Papua New Guinea works for the good of all.