All SABLs cancelled: O’Neill


THE Government has cancelled all Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABL) due to irregularities in various land and forestry laws that allowed the devastation of forests, parliament has been told.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill urged the landowners to revisit the leases signed with companies and if possible negotiate better benefits.
He was responding to a series of questions by Pomio MP Elias Kapavore in Parliament last Friday.
Kapavore asked if the commission of inquiry report into the SABL would be tabled in Parliament and if the Government could consider landowners of forestry impacted areas being given similar benefits as those in the extractive industry.
O’Neill said the Government was still waiting on the final report from the commission members.
“We have received reports on SABL from two commissioners out of the three that were tasked to carry out this inquiry,” he said.
“While waiting on last report, cabinet has taken some recommendations based on recommendations from the two commissioners who were able to lodge their report.
“I am pleased to say that all the SABL leases to be cancelled, instruction has now gone to the Lands Dept and as of today (last Friday) I can assure you that leases are now being cancelled and where there are projects now existing, we’ve encouraged the landowners to renegotiate many of those leases arrangements that they have made with the developers.
“These leases were given without much thought in the past. As a result, a lot of the landowners stood to lose all their years of generations of ownership over the land that they have had for many years.
“We do not want the rightful landowners lose their rights to land.
“That is why we have instructed the department of Lands and Forestry to cancel all the SABL.”
O’Neill highlighted Pomio district as a different case.
“Benefits to landowners, district and provinces, I want to say that I visited developments taking place in Pomio I support the MP (Kapavore) that those developments are taking place in a constructive and achieving the purpose. But the benefits to the landowners, district, LLG must be clearly defined and I’m encouraged that some of these developers are starting to talk with the landowners so they can have far greater benefits in these projects,” he said.