Ecoforestry & NGO Movement


Logging Update: Business as Usual, with Ecoforestry and Strong NGO Movement Providing Hope for Sustainability


Forest Networking a Project of Ecological Enterprises


Following is an _excellent_ update of the current forest conservation situation in Papua New Guinea written by Brian Brunton of Greenpeace, their locally based rainforest campaigner. It details the continued intensive industrial forestry as well as the promising ecoforestry and NGO movement which potentially could provide a more sustainable use of PNG's rainforests. Significantly, each of the major logging operations and local conservation struggles in PNG are reviewed and the status of each provided. What emerges is a consistent pattern of abuses of law and environmental destruction. Brunton summarizes the situation as "Loggers efforts have concentrated on subverting the tendering procedures of the Forest Act, and trying to sew up as much as possible in future concessions. Since 1992, no new logging project has come on stream in Papua New Guinea." This last fact is a testament to the continued clout and effectiveness of the thriving local environmental NGO movement and their international compatriots. Keep up the good work!

Note: This piece was written as a quick update and posted in econet's rainfor.general conference. It has been spell checked and other minor corrections made by EE.

** Topic: PNG Rainforest update November 1996 **
** Written 6:47 PM Nov 10, 1996 by in cdp:rainfor.genera **

Papua New Guinea rainforests update

November 1996


First the bad news. The loggers and the regulators : business as usual. There is a gap between the rhetoric and reality in Papua New Guinea's rainforests. The rhetoric lies in the words of the National Forest Authority (NFA) that the National Forest Plan, the logging code, and the dedication of regulators will bring order into the rainforests, everybody will make money and biodiversity will be saved. The reality is that the Forest Plan is nothing more than a logging plan, ably assisted by the Ozaid funded resource assessment (logging inventory). The plan does not take any account of biodiversity needs, because the foresters say that they were unable to get any response from the Department of Environment and Conservation. The logging companies are busy securing the legal rights over huge areas of forests in a new wave of logging. The NFA which has never had the will or the ability to regulate the forests in the past, and has never brought a successful prosecution against a logging company, and which refuses to implement effective bonds over new concessions, simply does not have the ability to take on the much wider regularity role that will be required of it. There are deep splits within the NFA, with divisions running between professional officers who want implement reforms and follow due process, and political elements who are locked into deals with logging companies and the culture of patronage.


Now for some good news. 1996 was the year that ecoforestry became a force. Over the past three years there were a number of separate initiatives to establish ecoforestry throughout Papua New Guinea. These were non government led, although aid donors have been playing an important role in providing funds. The NFA has never supported small and medium scale operations, although to be fair, it has never actually opposed them in the main. Certainly the NFA has supported the view that ecoforestry is uneconomical, and cannot bring the returns to fund the infrastructure that landholders require. The NFA also argues that ecoforestry does not have the scale to produce sustainable forest management, whatever that may mean. It argues that a project has to be big enough to allow logging over a 30 year cycle, which is what they say is the length of time needed for trees taken in selective logging to regenerate. I am not sure if this has been achieved with tropical mixed species forests, but the research in this country shows that selective logging is quite destructive.

Ecoforestry projects have been done by the Village Development Trust in Morobe Province, Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific in the East Sepik Province, Pacific Heritage Foundation in East New Britain. New Ireland, East Sepik Province, European Union in West New Britain, GTZ in Gulf Province, Manus ( medium sized project), new project planned in Finschaven Morobe Province, WWF Kikori Valley Gulf Province, Milne Bay Ecoforestry Association in Milne Bay Province. There are numerous village based small sawmills, which go in and out of business. This is particularly so in the Highlands which are not thought of as timber producing areas. The Pacific Heritage Foundation has a project in Okapa Eastern Highlands. With an election looming, Julius Chan has just distributed wokabaut sawmills in his electorate. South Pacific Timbers, a subsidiary of Tim Neville's family company Coecon has a relationship with the European Union, in which SPT will build a sawmill/factory and the EU will provide villagers with wokabaut sawmills around Milne bay and the D'Entrecasteaux Islands. The oil companies (SE Gobe project) have plans to use trees cleared along the pipeline route to support an ecoforestry business. Mining companies appear ready to support ecoforestry in their areas of operation. Greenpeace Pacific is promoting the development of the ecoforestry timber trade in conjunction with the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

In September 1996 the Netherlands-based church aid organization ICCO sponsored an Ecoforestry Consultation at Ulatawa, East New Britain. That brought together ngos ,small sawmill operators, landholders from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanutau (also reps from Suriname, Brazil, India, Philippines) with importers from the Netherlands and Australia. A major point that came out of this consultation was the strength of the domestic market for eco timber in Papua New Guinea. Most producers could sell all they could produce locally. The export market was viable but needed high technical standards. If properly supervised, the export market was viable. At the end of this consultation a Small Sawmillers Association was formed.

In October 1996 a meeting was held to start a process for the implementation of national standards for the Forest Stewardship Council's principles. This was well attended by ngos small sawmillers, foresters, with nominal attendance from the NFA and the loggers. The FSC process was adopted by the meeting, and was put in motion. It is likely to take one to two years to complete, as the requirements for stakeholder consultation are extensive.

The basis of ecoforestry is the price of rough sawn timber which varies between K200 and K300 per cubic metre, with WWF getting K380/m3 fob ex Kikori to California ( f course this is less costs of production which are about K70/m3. The loggers pay K5 to K10/m3 [ they are meant to be paying K23/m3 on current prices, but the deal between the World Bank, NFA, and the loggers only put K10/ m3 in the hand of the landholders at present, the other K13/m3 is deferred pending project reviews...don't hold your breathe ] Eco forestry put a lot more money in the hand of landholders. Properly supervised, it has an acceptable environmental impact. Unsupervised projects tend to break down because of technical and managerial problems.

Sandaun Province

The Sandaun Province [ West Sepik Province ], along with the Gulf and Western Provinces are the last frontiers of vast untouched lowland forest resources in Papua New Guinea. The Sandaun Provincial Government has plans for massive agro-forestry projects which will involve clear felling the rainforest.

aitape oil palm scheme

This is a so-called oil palm scheme, joint venture between a Malaysian company Damansera and local landowner companies. The planned venture would cover some 120,000 hectares, but at present the only concession that has been granted is a Timber Authority for 5000 hectares, which has expired. A large number of logs have been felled and shipped out, but the company has no demonstrated ability to proceed with a large oil palm project. The current activity is centered at Pia. The trees have been cut, but there are major problems with planting oil palm, and with land title.

A minority of land holders oppose the scheme, and a majority are dissatisfied with the way it has gone so far, but would like to see it go ahead. The project is on customary land. There has been an attempt by the Government to lease the land from the landholders, and then lease it back to the landowners joint venture company for the purposes of planting the oil palm [ this is called lease-lease-back, under section 15 of the Land act ].

There are disputes over whether or not the lease/leaseback has been authorized by the proper landholders. It has so far been impossible to check the title because all the files are missing in the Lands Registry and the Lands Department.

Damansera are using customary land to access a road and a wharf. The landholders claim that they were never consulted and that the company is trespassing. A trespass action is being instituted in the Aitape District Court.

ICRAF and Greenpeace Pacific organized funding to strengthen the forest education and extension work of the Catholic Commission of Justice Peace and Development in Aitape.

Funds were also organized for a marine base-line data collection for Sissano Lagoon and Ali Island by the Christensen Research Institute. The Report showed that Sissano Lagoon is naturally a lagoon of high sediment load and low salinity, supporting a wide variety of fish and invertebrates. It is very important to the nearby people as a source of protein. By all accounts, the lagoon is steadily becoming shallower which may lead to serious depletion of lagoon fish stocks and health problems related not only to nutrition but also to sanitation. In relation to the planned upstream logging, clear-felling will almost definitely cause a rapid increase in sedimentation within the lagoon, greatly accelerating and exacerbating these problems.

Ali Island which is off-shore from the Pia activities has a patch reef of phenomenal marine diversity and abundance by any world standard. There is a danger that mainland construction activities can periodically release quantities of sediment which could result in loss of fish catch. Reefs and fisheries in this area are affected by dynamite-fishing, and increases in shipping traffic from log carriers.

Copies of this report are available from ICRAF.

East Sepik Province

april salumei, hunstein ranges

The Hunstein Ranges contains the largest stand of kauri in Papua New Guinea, and is of high biodiversity priority. In 1996, the East Sepik Provincial Government, in its Provincial Forest Plan has designated the Hunstein Ranges for conservation. Unfortunately there is no map which officially delineates the scope of the area to be conserved. WWF South Pacific and the East Sepik Council of Women ( Ambunti District ) have been working with the communities of the Sepik Hills and have reached agreements with them for the Hunstein Ranges and adjoining areas to be a conservation area known as the Sepik Hills Conservation Area. Six areas are included the Hunstein Ranges, Me'ha, Yerakai/Garamambu, Wakuk, Chambri, Malu/Arpun. WWF is very close to obtaining large funding from the Netherlands Government to implement a program that will satisfy conservation and development needs in these areas.

Loggers are still threatening along the April and the Salumei Rivers. The NFA has proceeded on the basis that the original April Salumei TRP is null and void, although it has simply refused to acknowledge the legality of that proposition in writing. To that extent we can see the total irresponsibility of the NFA towards biodiversity priority. Instead the NFA has attempted to register incorporated land groups as the first move to re establishing its concession. There are two things wrong with this process. First it appears to have ignored the Provincial Forest Plan which designates the Hunstein Ranges for conservation, and only 60,000 hectares of lowland for productive forests. Secondly the Land Groups have been incorporated incorrectly, and without proper authorization.

Two lots of loggers appear to be active in the area. One led by Phillip Ugu along the April River with a company known as the Future Development Corporation, Ugu is from the Waskuk Hills. The other group which is not readily identifiable is said to operate along the Salumei River, it may well be led by Gasmata Holdings, a company based in West New Britain [ Andrew Posai, disgraced former forest minister was a director of this company].

NGOs which are stakeholders in the Hunstein area include the Greenlight Trust which has given consistent support over the past five years, WWF South Pacific, ESCOW, East Sepik Local Environment Foundation, ICRAF, Greenpeace Pacific and the Pacific Heritage Foundation. World Vision, which has an office in Wewak, operates along the April River, but does not network with other NGOs. Good relations exist between ngos and the New Tribes Mission at Begapuki, and the Catholic Mission in Ambunti. The Pacific Heritage Foundation has placed wokabaut sawmills along the April River and at Yerakai and Wagu.

The bottom line is that there has been no logging in the Hunstein Ranges after five years of struggle.

East New Britain

open bay

This is a large concession that has been operated by Kowa Lumber, of Tokyo, Japan, since the 1960s. There are five Timber Rights Purchase agreements involved in the project. The project has never been able to achieve anything but logging. Its sawmill burnt down under mysterious circumstances about 15 years ago. Most of the landholders want to close the project down because of the company's failure to put in infrastructure, and because of environmental damage. The timber permit under which the company operates has expired, and the opposition of the landholders has forced the company to restrict its activities to harvesting from plantations which are on government land. The landholders want the timber permit to be re issued to their own companies so they can control the project as five separate entities themselves. The NFA wants Kowa to stay, and has been manipulating the negotiations to keep the landholders who want Kowa out, out of the negotiations.

Because the timber permit under the old Act has expired, this concession should be advertised for tendering under the Forestry act 1991. But the NFA and Kowa don't want to do this. No one likes competition. The NFA wants to give Open Bay on a platter to Kowa Lumber.

This matter is very close to going to court.


A logging company called Kerawara as the contractor for a local company called Richard Gault Industries ( controlled by the wife of the former premier of east New Britain ), entered cocoa blocks without the consent of the owners and logged, ostensibly under the authority of a timber authority issued by the NFA. There is a legal issue as to whether the contractor could log without the express authorization of the block owners. This case is close to going to court

Southern Highlands Province

mount bosavi

Mount Bosavi is an extinct volcanic cone rising out of the Papuan Plain in the Southern Highlands. It is an isolated and undeveloped area of high biodiversity priority. Mount Bosavi is in the area that is looked after by WWF US under contract to Chevron. The area has been under pressure from the Yeungs Corporation of Hong Kong. That company has connections with Julius Chan's family and companies own by that family. So far there has been a struggle over the Bosavi timber resources in which those located in the Gulf Province have been advertised for development. However after pressure, the Southern Highlands landholders are holding firm. They have refused to sign Forest Management Agreements (FMAs) with the NFA unless they get Bosavi designated a conservation area [ the NFA will agree to this], unless a road is constructed linking them with the Southern Highlands, and unless the project is primarily a downstream processing project with no more than 15% export logging. These conditions the NFA have turned down. However latest reports indicate that Yeungs have been offering clan groups K10,000 each if they sign up for the FMA. So far there have been no takers. This is because WWF organized key landholder to visit the Wawoi Guavi TRP in the Western Province ( see below ); the landholders were not impressed with the environmental and social impacts of export logging.

WWF US and Friends of Bosavi, Conservation Melanesian, ICRAF and Greenpeace Pacific have been working on the ground with the landholders. One promising matter is that the World Bank is considering a major investment with the Bosavi people as part of a scheme to ensure that the people are compensated for agreeing to conserve their forests. This initiative needs to come on quickly.

The bottom line is that there has been no logging on or near Mount Bosavi after two years of struggle. The landholders look like they will remain firm.

Western Province

The Western Province is a frontier for the loggers, who are maneuvering to grab concessions. There are two indigenous ngos in the Province. IDEAS, a branch of the Catholic Church, based in Kiunga, but is not thought to deal with forest issues at this point in time. ECOSEEDS is a new ngo based in Daru, and works in social and environmental issues. ICRAF has worked in the past with IDEAS, but is currently working with ECOSEEDS. WWF South Pacific is involved with conservation work along the border near Benschbak. There are huge areas of forest in the province. There is an urgent need for ngo co operation in the Western Province.

wawoi guavi

There are three Wawoi Guavi TRPs ( Blocks 1, 2 and 3 ), all administered under one timber permit, which is effectively controlled by Nuigini Lumber a Rimbunan Hijau subsidiary. Wawoi Guavi Block 3 lies to the south of Mount Bosavi, and poses a threat to the unique biodiversity of the Mountain. It is the largest timber concession in Papua New Guinea. It is in an isolated area very difficult for ngos and the NFA to access. There have been a number of critical reports, both government and non government, alleging environmental damage and social disruption. Landholders from the northern extreme Block 3, have called for the permit to be canceled. In 1995, the then NFA Managing Director Jean Kekedo recommended that a show cause notice be issued, but she was stopped by her technical officers. The struggle to stop RH in Wawoi Guavi is gearing up, but it will be a long fight. This is an isolated area. The people are very poor. Poor communications exacerbate health problems. There is a lot of prostitution associated with logging activity. The position of women is particularly critical. Labour conditions are poor. Women are a large portion of the workforce at the project sawmill, which has a quota of 20,000/m3 per annum. This is an area where ngos need to focus their alternatives.


Makapa is the south west of Wawoi Guavi and so Nuigini Lumber (RH) would dearly like to get its hands on these forests. Makapa has large areas of wet land. It is a concession that was granted to a Sabah based company called Innovision (PNG) Pty Ltd in a timber permit issued by the late Jack Genia, Minister for Forests, on the 24th of June 1992, a day when the Minister issued sixteen permits in a hurry to help his logging mates and avoid the provisions of the new Forestry Act 1991 which came into effect the following day.

Innovision (PNG) Pty Ltd is a subsidiary of Innoprise Corporation Sedirian Berhed, a commercial arm of the Sabah Foundation/ Sabah Government. Innovision has sat on the permit for four years, done nothing, while trying to maneuver for favorable conditions under which to operate. There have been numerous legal problems with the permit. The best view was that the permit lapsed because of the company's inactivity, but this view did not prevail within the Justice Department and the NFA, and in July 1995 the Forest Board passed the buck to the National Executive Council for approval. However the New Straits Times on the 25th of August 1994 reported that Innovision (PNG) sold its interest in the Makapa TRP to a company called CASH.

CASH ( Construction and Supplies Houses Berhad ) was acquired by Barito Pacific in 1994. The Barito Pacific Group is led by Sino- Indonesian businessman Prajogo Pangestu. A major shareholder in the group is Bamang Trihatmojo, a son of President Suharto of Indonesia ( source George Aditjondro " Suharto Clan's Global Forestry Interests" The Nation 9 September 1996, Bangkok )

There is still considerable competition over who will log Makapa. The landholders are split between those aligned with Innovision, Nuigini Lumber (RH), and a landholder company called Pisa, that had arrangements with the Collins and Leahy group, to do environmentally friendly downstream processing. There is some chance that there will be a court case on this project. There is also a good chance that Nuigini Lumber will get its hands on the concession because it owns the rights in Wawoi Guavi, and is trying to expand westwards (see below )

There is a need for ngos to focus alternative development in this area.

The bottom line is that there has been no logging after four years of struggle in Makapa.

wawoi guavi-makapa extension

Nuigini Lumber have been very active in the Western Province trying to sign up landholders over a huge area west of Wawoi Guavi to Nomad and the Strickland River, and South down to Makapa. They will probably try to convince the NFA that this area should be given to them as an extension of their existing Wawoi Guavi permit. That would make a mockery of the tendering procedures of the act. However there is a precedent for it , with the granting of the Turama permit in the Gulf Province as an extension of an existing permit already in the hands of the Prime Group. These extensions would be another example of how loggers seek to get around the provisions of the Forestry Act and avoid tendering procedures.

Gulf Province


There are three Vailala concessions. Blocks 1, 2, and 3. Block 1 was allocated some time ago to a Chinese company (People's Republic ) called Shiesi. The concession is on the coast , west of Kerema. It was plagued with landholder disputes and bad management. Eventually a show cause notice was issued. But Shiesi, used its government 's influence in Peking to put pressure on the Government of Papua New Guinea, and although the permit has not been canceled, no work has gone on in Vailala Block 1 for nearly two years. Shiesi is meant to be restructuring and finding new capital.

Vailala Blocks 2 and 3 are very controversial. No Timber Rights Purchase was ever done to get the timber rights off the landholders, but a timber permit was issued to a company called Frontier Holdings Pty Ltd. The shares in Frontier Holdings are owned 9999 by a company called Superacme [ with a post office address in Port Moresby ] and one share by Hii Yii Ann. Superacme is not registered in Papua New Guinea. Frontier Holdings on its face is an improperly registered company. So a timber permit was granted to a company which was unlawfully registered, in respect of timber rights which were not the property of the NFA.

All this was known to NFA management. In 1995 NFA staff sought to regularize this situation by having land groups incorporated, and FMAs signed over Vailala Blocks 2 and 3. They sought to patch up in retrospect the defect that that they had granted a timber permit in respect of rights over which they held no property in the first place. Some NFA staff hoped that they may be able to cancel the Frontiers Holding permit because of irregularities, and call for tenders. But they were undermined by the lawyers. In early 1996 Frontier Holdings reached an agreement with the Minister of Forests and the Solicitor General that there should be a consent order in the National Court, to a declaration that the original permit was lawful. A declaration was so obtained. But it was obtained without serving the National Forest Authority. The Forest Board, which was under the political control of the Minister, refused to appeal, or otherwise intervene in the decision of the National Court. This is another example of how a timber permit is issued without following the tendering procedures under the Forestry Act. These dealings have caused concern amongst professional staff in the NFA.

The German aid organization GTZ has established a small wokabaut sawmill presence in Ihu. Recent information suggests that the idea of ecoforestry production is growing in Vailala, and that the people are resisting the logging companies.

The bottom line is that no logs have been exported from Vailala Block 1 for two years, and no logs have been exported from blocks 2 and 3 period.


In 1995 the NFA issued a timber permit to the Prime Group for vast areas of forest in the Kikori Valley and east of Kikori. The bottom line is that no logs have been exported from this new concession. WWF US is establishing an ecoforestry capability in the area, and has already sent two containers of ecotimber to California.

Milne Bay Province

sagarai gedaisu

This concession was originally held by a New Zealand company, but the project went into receivership. The joint venture landowning/operating company was ladened with debt. An arrangement was made whereby the debt would be worked off by giving the logging contract to Saban Pty Ltd, the contractor for Gara Modewa, an adjoining concession. Saban is a subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau. Instead of the timber permit being revoked, and tenders being called, the timber permit was passed to Saban.

The ngo Milne Bay Ecoforestry association is beginning to be active in the area. In an adjoining concession, the Coecon subsidiary ( Tim Neville's family company ) South Pacific Timbers, has gone into an arrangement with the European Union. The EU will supply wokabaut sawmills, and SPT will do the milling and exporting.

The Bottom Line in 1996

Loggers efforts have concentrated on subverting the tendering procedures of the Forest Act, and trying to sew up as much as possible in future concessions.

Since 1992, no new logging project has come on stream in Papua New Guinea.

All log exports come from permits which were granted in 1992 or before that date.

The struggle continues.

No Pasaran !

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