PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 14, 2008) – New Ireland is a maritime province and it looks like the new Governor, Sir Julius Chan, is determined to swim against the tide if need be.

He has pronounced his stand on logging: He doesn’t want any.

This follows hard on the heels of his decision not to welcome or support the planned cassava project in the Kavieng electorate of his province.

[PIR editor’s note: Kavieng is the capital of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland and the largest town on the island of the same name. The town is located at Balgai Bay, on the northern tip of the island. As of 2000, it had a population of 10,600.]

He is pulling against the tide of Kavieng Member of Parliament Martin Aini and the National Government. Mr Aini and the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare have buried the peace hatchet over their split on the Moti Affair and are as one on the cassava deal.

But Sir Julius is maintaining his position on projects touted under the reign of predecessor, Ian Ling-Stuckey. He will review all such projects and wants to get all information needed before approving any.

Logging is one such activity.

He said illegal logging in his province had cost the province millions and he was considering imposing a suspension on logging for an indefinite period.

This is a rarity in a country where provinces seem to be rubberstamping approvals from Waigani, with the push on to fast-track logging and other timber projects.

Sir Julius’s attitude seems wise, at least in the case of his province. It is not a large island and has suffered badly from large and medium scale logging in the past. The Central New Ireland area has been the plaything of local operators and foreigners, going back to the grandiose, failed Japanese Otsuka project of the 1980s.

A lot of lipservice is being paid to the forest industry these days, but province after province appear to be falling like giant kwila trees, to get in line with the Waigani push for more and more timber concessions to be granted.

While there is debate about the good and bad of logging, it would seem sensible to hold back instead of letting the loggers rush in with their bulldozers and chainsaws. The timber will not lose its value. Our timbers are keenly sought after. They will not go away. Those in positions of power, from national to provincial level, should be cautioned to think of the well-being of the landowners. Not from the standpoint of seemingly glamorous payments, but from the long-term view of what will be left once the forests are cut down.

Much of our forest is only valuable with the trees still standing. Once they are gone, degraded secondary growth takes over, our tropical rains wash away the denuded soil and the rainforests will never be re-established.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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