FRANK SENGE KOLMA
THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has called for immediate Government action to reinstate a valuable and controversial piece of land in Port Moresby back to the State.
The land at section 122, commonly referred to as Unagi Park, has been sub-divided into ever smaller parcels, zoned commercial and leased out to private business concerns even though the State Leases over the land was, and still is, zoned as reserved open space land, for the benefit of the public.
There is hardly any piece of the once large tract of land left and the remaining parcels have been sub-divided and leased off.
This has led to a last-ditch legal action by the National Capital District Commission, which is the legal trustee of the land, to recover certain parcels of the land from two private companies.
Only last week it was granted its application for a judicial review of the ministerial decision which granted the leases away (reported separately on this page).
The PAC followed the history of the dealings over this land and concluded that the facts showed “a clear pattern of conscious illegality in the PNG Lands Board” with the tacit knowledge and approval of the Department of Lands and Physical Planning.
It illustrated, the PAC reported, both “inept decision making by the Lands Board” and a “paralysis of action that attends the Department of Lands” even when the illegalities of the lease issue are known to the department.
“The history of this parcel is complex … but the grants and issues of private title over all of section 122, Hohola, are unlawful and require immediate action from the National Government to rectify the defects and/or reinstate this valuable public asset – if indeed it is not too late to do so,” the PAC said.
This large tract of land lies opposite the SP Brewery and extends to the Gordon police station with a public road dissecting it.
It was zoned as “reserved land” in 1982 to be used as public recreational land.
Under the law, a land zoned as reserved land cannot be rezoned or sub-divided unless the original zone (reserved land) has been revoked.
This has never happened in the case of the land under discussion.
The land has been subdivided at various times since and according to the PAC findings “unlawfully granted to private ownership”.
Said the PAC: “From this examination, the committee concludes that the State has been deprived unlawfully, of a large and valuable tract of land for no or no adequate recompense; that the State has been exposed to liability by departmental actions and failures; and that the public have been deprived, quite illegally, of prime recreational land.”
There were a number of sequential survey plans over the land over the years which have variously sub-divided section 122 into ever smaller allotments.
With each plan the allotments have also changed.
It is difficult to follow and even more difficult to understand but the basic plans are that: survey plan 49/901 done in 1969 registered the area as section 122 Hohola.
Plan 49/1507 of Nov 23, 1982, sub-divided section 122 into lots 1-7.
A third plan 49/1867 of July 10, 1990, led to the creation of lots 6-10.
Plan 49/1887 also on July 10, 1990, created allotment 11 and subsumed allotments 1-4.
Finally, plan 49/2276 of March 17, 1997, created allotments 12 and 13 and allotments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 11 of section 122 ceased to exist.
At the time the PAC report was going to press the final piece was sub-divided into lots 14, 15, 16, and 17.
Legal action is on foot over lots 14 and 15 and it is likely other lots will be covered in time.
All this while the land remains zoned “open space” which has never been revoked and the appointment of the NCDC Board as trustees of the reserved land has also never been revoked.
Section 67 of the Land Act explicitly states that a lease cannot be granted: “… in contravention of the zoning of the subject land”.