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Kavieng landowners accept $768,000 payment

By Grace Tiden PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 30, 2011) - The Kavieng Airport was re-opened early this week after an agreement was reached between landowners and Kavieng Open Member Martin Aini.

The airport was closed for nearly two weeks.

Mr. Aini stepped in to resolve the issue after meetings with the New Ireland Chamber of Commerce which raised concerns on the effect of the airport’s closure on businesses and the tourism industry.

A spokesperson from the MP’s office said Aini and the landowners reached some understanding last Friday which led to a payment of PGK2 million [US$768,000] or "bel kol" money to the landowners on Monday.

The landowners involving traditional "maimais" held a small ceremony to remove the "gorgor" and paved the way for the airport to be re-opened.

The spokesperson said the PGK1.5 million [US$576,000] would be given to the District Treasury office which will later give the money to the Omo and Pablaiang people once they have set up their incorporated land groups and trust accounts.

The remaining PGK500,000 [US$192,000] will be put aside for administration costs. This money will help landowners document all the grievances included in their petition. Outstanding issues such as compensation for traditional land including the airport and the wharf will be packaged together and presented to the National Government later.

Aini assured the people that he would assist in making sure all their worries were documented and brought to the attention of the National Government.

The spokesperson said Aini who is also chairman of the Kavieng Joint District Planning and Budget Priority Committee approved the PGK2 million that was earmarked for projects and that the KJDBPC would be seeking reimbursement from the Department of Finance or the New Ireland Provincial Government. The spokesperson also said Aini told those who had gathered at the airport that he did what he did on behalf of the New Ireland Provincial Government and the Kavieng District.

Aini assured the landowners he would do his best to pursue their petition with some of the issues which have been raised more than 20 years ago.

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