A prominent legal Lands adviser in East New Britain province says customary landowners will lose more land if they don’t plan how their land will be used.
John Gesling a land court magistrate says 80 percent of land in the province is still undeveloped and landowners must register it to maintain their ownership title.
This follows ongoing arguments between landowners regarding oil palm and logging in the province, spurred by land law reforms over the years.
“I am sorry to say that but the SABL is one thing that has taken away everything from our landowners. We have the rights to safeguard the resources…including land because these resources must be here for the generations to also benefit from,” Mr. Gesling said.
East New Britain province is made up more than 1,500 hectares of landmass. More than half of that is owned by traditional landowners.
In recent years, according to research, the land and the forest that sit on it are slowly disappearing as developments are slowly making inroads into what was initially a wild and untouched environment.
Unofficial estimates suggests that land in the province is being used mostly by oil palm development and logging.
Much of the blame has been laid against numerous land reforms such as the Special Agriculture Business Lease or SABL, that have put some foreign investors at a greater advantage over traditional landowners. He has been encouraging local landowners to retain and register their land, that has been acquired through illegal and corrupt means.
“The constitutions are there to guarantee the rights of the landowners such as the incorporated land group…register your land,” Gesling said.
In recent years, the growth in oil palm development and logging in the province has increased significantly, that on the other hand, it had spurred disagreements between landowners.
Arguments over ownership have created controversies over who is the rightful custodian, that has the authority to invite foreign developers to develop their customary land.