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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 30, 1999 – PACNEWS)---The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has delivered a landmark decision, compensating landowners from East New Britain for illegal logging.

The court ordered the Government to pay Warongoi landowners K2.3 million (US$ 954,000) for damage to their land by illegal logging.

The money is damages and costs for trespass and breach of contract and would be paid by two logging companies and the State administration.

The case relates to an incident in 1993, when the Minister for Forests issued a timber license to two logging companies in Warongoi, a day before the new Forestry Act came into effect.

Warongoi landowners hold 99-year agricultural leases for cocoa production, but the logging companies entered the land without consent, removed the timber and caused damage. While the National Court ruled in favor of the landholders in 1997, all defendants appealed.

Supreme Court Judges Salika, Sawong and Injia unanimously ruled that the appeals be struck out.

Their decision was on the grounds that there had been an overall delay in bringing on the appeal, the landholders had suffered prejudice because they did not receive the appellants written submissions as ordered, and they had been kept out of their judgement.

The PNG Government is trying to open up as many as 17 new forest concessions and extend existing ones.

The PNG Forest Authority has been subject to budget cuts and cannot professionally manage the responsibilities now being placed upon it.

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