Complacency feels good, but it might kill you

Taking back PNG? This new law gives it away

Warime Guti -
Warime Guti - "Let us work together to create a sustainable future that values the protection of our natural resources and respects the rights and well-being of its people"


LAE - The Papua New Guinea Environmental Alliance (PNGEA), a representative of civil society organisations, is deeply concerned about the national government’s push to establish special economic zones throughout the country.

We’re concerned about the impact of the Special Economic Zone Authority Act of 2019, legislated to identify environmentally important areas and consider the well-being of communities within and near planned zones.

The PNGEA foresees increasing demand for land and seascape which will be alienated from customary owners.

The Act does not require adequate consultation with communities before zones are established nor does it necessitate free, prior and informed consent before a project is approved.

Undertaking awareness and consultation processes and attaining full and culturally appropriate consent should be mandatory.

Given the scale of the projects and the changes to livelihoods of affected communities, the lack of free, prior and informed consent is very troubling.

We also note that the legislated level of compliance with environmental laws is not strong enough and risks undermining the integrity of the government’s environmental protection policies.

These important safeguards are necessary to ensure that special economic zones are developed in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Furthermore, the Act is silent on how the protection of existing biological diversity and conservation efforts will be protected.

The Act provides for the Special Economic Zone Authority to take the lead in implementing environmental, labour and other relevant laws and regulations.

We question the ability of the Authority, which is designed to progress the nation’s economy, to competently assume stewardship over the environment.

The land acquisition process set out in the Act appears to create an unjust process for alienating customary land for commercial purposes.

There is mention of compensation but it is not clear what form this will take.

If the alienation process involves large tracts of land, it is inevitable that customary landowners will lose their resources and probably their livelihoods, and be displaced and relocated.

Coupled with this will be difficulties in securing legal redress for losing the ownership of land – a possible breach of their fundamental right to the full protection of the law enshrined in the PNG Constitution.

In terms of contributing to the economy, we consider that special economic zones will only benefit larger companies.

Schedule 2 of the Act provides for a minimum investment requirement of $10 million (K23 million). This will be prohibitive for many local businesses who wish to access the zones, of particular concern in relation to agriculture.

The focus on using zones to attract foreign companies strongly suggests that smaller and more sustainable agricultural will be forced out and PNG’s biodiversity-rich environment will be exposed to the dangers of large-scale agriculture.

Such a development would also contradict the government’s policies and programs to promote local small local businesses.

The Papua New Guinea Environmental Alliance believes economic development is important for PNG's future.

However this must be achieved in a sustainable and responsible way that respects the rights and interests of local communities and protects our natural environment.

Our customary land system is unique and brings an identity and pride to the nation. The Act risks degrading this essential part of our Melanesian conscience.

We urge the PNG government to halt the establishment of these zones in environmentally sensitive areas and require robust environmental impact assessments and meaningful consultation with affected communities before any zones are approved.

It is the view of the PNGEA that the Act is not consistent with the government’s environmental commitments which it makes at international climate forums, and that the government has derailed its promise to ‘Take Back PNG’.

Indeed, the Act shows that the Marape-Rosso government will be giving away PNG.

The PNG Environmental Alliance, representing civil society organisations in PNG, strongly urges the government to reconsider its decision to implement the legislation in its current form so as to ensure:

  • it will be consistent, fair and equitable by adhering and complying with its existing laws and policies on environmental and social protection in order to sustain the natural and social resources of this country for future generations.

  • all business investors will be treated equitably and fairly with no investor having special considerations.

  • close attention is paid to the environmental and social impact of special economic zones. This should include, but not be limited to, mandatory environmental and socio-economic impact assessments and the assurance that the rights of the PNG Conservation and Environment Protection Authority and of other relevant government bodies are not superseded.

  • a continuing focus on promoting local SME’s and empowering our people and avoid the risk of them becoming mere spectators and losing their autonomy by foreign owned companies operating on their land and using their resources.

Let us work together to create a sustainable future for our nation, one that values the protection of our natural resources and respects the rights and well-being of its entire people.


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Lindsay F Bond

"Just 2% of Britain is ancient woodland."


As would say the late Professor Julius Sumner Miller, "Why is it so?"

Why is it so? This from 15 years ago in The Guardian:

"Ancient woodland in Britain is being felled at a rate even faster than the Amazon rainforest, according to new research today.

"It shows that almost half of all woods in the UK that are more than 400 years old have been lost in the past 80 years and more than 600 ancient woods are now threatened by new roads, electricity pylons, housing, and airport expansion" - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

On the face of it this sounds like another attempt, in a long line of many, to circumvent the rights of traditional land owners.

It seems to follow on in the style of the most egregious to date, the Special Purpose & Business Leases (SABLs) that now cover 5.2 million hectares or 11% of PNG's total land area.

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