The National, Tuesday June 2nd, 2015
Overcrowding at oil palm blocks in West New Britain has spiralled out of control, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll says.
Answering questions from West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel in Parliament last Friday, he said: “We understand that these oil palm blocks, many years ago, were allocated in six-hectare blocks, of which four hectares were supposed to have been used for planting oil palm and two hectares for living, mainly to build house and grow fruits in gardens at the back.
“At the time this concept was launched, many of the families that applied were accepted and then resettled into those blocks,” he said.
“They were very small families, maybe mother, father and one or two children. Those families have grown.
“This is three generations now that have lived on that block.
“You have an average of about seven children per family and you have more than 30 family members on one block, plus uncles and cousins and in-laws, so about 50, so obviously, the use of this amount of land is under pressure.
“In terms of what do we do with them, I think that it’s an issue of planning and the provincial government would be a partner in providing a solution.”
Muthuvel asked what the Government was doing about the overcrowding issue.
“As we speak right now, there is a lot of debate going on West New Britain on radio,” he said.
“The overcrowding issue is really a major issue.
“Each oil palm block is now turned into a village, so what was meant for one family has now turned into 10 families and that causes a lot of law and order situations,” he said.