Landowners go on spending spree

National, Normal


AS the licence-based benefit sharing agreement (LBBSA) forums for Hides PDL 1, Hides PRL 12 and Angore PRL 11 gas projects in Hela province wind down this week, landowners are now partying and driving around in expensive four-wheel vehicles.
With millions of kina paid out to landowners as “allowances” by the Petroleum and Energy Department, there was so much cash in Tari, Nogoli, Komo, Angore, Moro and other areas that stocks are running low in most shops.
Several beer retailers in Tari have run out of supplies as landowners go on a spending spree. Club owners in Tari are rushing to Mendi and Mt Hagen to re-stock.
The celebrations have not been so merry as some landowners were already in car accidents with vehicles hired from Mendi, Mt Hagen, Goroka and Lae vehicle hire firms.
Government sources said yesterday that more than 150 vehicles, some for K800 a day, had been hired.
Tari police sources said there had been  an increase in road accidents since the LBBSA forums started last month.
Police said about 10vehicles went off the road in Nogoli and Komo area last week but could not say how many people involved. 
In Tari town, youths who were frustrated over the non-representation of Hela in the LBBSA burnt a hire-car driven by Hides PDL 1 landowner Max Ekeya from the Hiwa Homane clan, police said.
Mr Ekeya said he was attacked and assaulted by the youths when he stopped in Tari one night to look for accommodation for some of the landowners he had brought along.
Tari police station commander Chief Insp Michael Welly confirmed the incident and said police would act on the culprits after the LBBSA forums are over.
Yesterday, four Hides landowners on a drink and drive binge, escaped death when the driver lost control and plunged the vehicle into the nearby Tebi bridge just outside Tari.
The four were taken to Tari hospital and are recovering. Three women who were standing near the road are also in shock after the vehicle nearly crashed into them. Tari police have yet to arrest and charge the driver of the vehicle.
Police have warned landowners to be wary of accidents, as with the huge money floating around from the LBBSA, there are fears that most of this money would be spent recklessly on beer and womanising posing an increase in road accidents and HIV/AIDS especially with the festive season now around the corners.