Vanuatu Landowners Threaten To Burn Logging Machines

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Erromango residents say loggers failed to honor 2012 agreement

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 31, 2013) – Thirty landowners on the Island of Erromango have threatened to burn logging machineries unless the Department of Forestry and the Vanuatu Government act quickly to meet their demands.

Speaking on behalf of the thirty landowners, former Member of Parliament, Thomas Nentu, said the landowners signed an agreement with a company from New Caledonia AMIVATU to carry out logging on the island.

He said in 2012 the company placed heavy logging machineries on the island and carried out logging but failed to follow the proper procedures.

Mr. Nentu said instead of constructing proper roads into the forests before carry out logging business, the company used portable machineries to cut down trees and had three shipments to Port Vila.

When the land owners expressed their dissatisfaction about the ways in which AMIVATU was carrying out the logging, the company left Erromango and allegedly returned to New Caledonia without paying the owners for the lumbers they shipped from the island.

"They destroyed our forests and left many trees they cut down just lying there. We have tried a number of times to resolve the issue with the Department of the Forestry and the national government but seem to get nowhere and no positive answers in getting the company to come to Vanuatu to resolve the problems they left behind with the landowners," Nentu complained.

The former MP who is the leader of the 30 land owners that signed the agreement with AMIVATU for logging on Erromango warned that unless they receive some positive help from the Department of Forestry and the national government in resolving the issue, they will have no alternative but to burn down all machineries kept on Erromango.

Nentu further called on any individuals who are trying to place claims on the machineries but were not on the initial list of owners who signed agreement between AMIVATU and land owners to; refrain from pursuing court claims on the machineries, laywers dealing with any claims in relation to the issue to also stop assisting individuals or companies trying to put claims on machineries, ship owners not to attempt to ship the machineries out of Erromango and foreign or local investors not to try and enter further deals regarding AMIVATU logging on Erromango until the Department of Forestry and the Vanuatu Government assist to resolve the outstanding issue.

"Our last resort will be to burn down all machineries that are now on Erromango under the name of the AMIVATU Company. I wish to remind the Government of the 1997 Park line logging that were burnt because of non-action on the part of the Vanuatu Government at the time," Nentu expressed to Daily Post.

The Acting Director of the Department of Forestry, Joseph Tukon said he is waiting for the Director to return from leave then they will look into the whole issue. He added that normally the Department of Forestry grants licenses to companies for logging who fulfill the initial requirements under the relevant laws of Vanuatu in regards to logging.

He went on to explain that once the company is given the license, the licensee (company) is required to work closely with the landowners to carry out logging business. He explained that under the logging laws payment(s) for logging would normally take place on the spot-that is where the logging is carried out.

"There are other requirements which are usually explained to the landowners before the investors can carry out logging. And once an agreement is reached and signed between the logging company and the land owners, then the land owners must ensure the company follows the requirements."

The Acting Director said he is waiting for the return of the Director to see how the Department and the Government can assist with the complaints lodged by the Erromango land owners.

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