99-Year PNG State Land Lease To Private Company Annulled

admin's picture

Former lands secretary granted lease ‘unlawfully’ in 2011

By Todagia Kelola

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 28, 2013) – Papua New Guinea’s National Court has declared as null and void a decision by the Lands Secretary in 2011 that granted a 99-year State lease to a company, Tzen Plantations Ltd, over a portion of land for agriculture purposes.

The National Court yesterday ruled that the land which is known as portion 777 in the Mevelo area of Pomio District, East New Britain Province, of about 9,418 hectares was obtained in circumstances that were unsatisfactory, irregular and unlawful as to amount to constructive fraud.

The applicants were Open Bay Timber Ltd. and the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority (PNGFA).

They had gone to court seeking judicial review of an administrative decision by the then Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning in January 2011, granting a 99-year State lease to the sixth defendant, Tzen Plantations Ltd.

The two plaintiffs had claimed that portion 777 had long been earmarked for reafforestation by Open Bay Timber Company, a Japanese-owned timber company that has been operating in the area for almost 40 years.

They said that Open Bay had a sound record of environmental management and that its operations had long been approved and supported by the PNGFA and its predecessors, the Department of Forests and the Office of Forests.

They claimed that the Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning had no right to grant a lease over the Mevelo land to Tzen Plantations and that the decision to grant the lease and other decisions, including a decision of the Land Board to recommend the granting of the lease, were unlawful.

The plaintiffs sought orders that would result in Tzen Plantations’ lease being quashed and declarations that the land is the property of the PNGFA and that would preserve the interests of Open Bay Timber Company in relation to it.

Justice David Cannings, in determining the application in a 33-page decision, discussed all the issues raised by the two plaintiffs and the six defendants and ruled that the errors of law proven by the plaintiffs under grounds 1 and 3 were so numerous and serious as to amount to constructive fraud, warranting the exercise of the court’s discretion by granting the relief sought by the plaintiffs.

Among the orders issued, Tzen Plantations Ltd shall within 14 days return its owner’s copy of the State Lease over portion 777, Milinch Open, Fourmil Rabaul, East New Britain Province, to the secretary for Lands and the first, second, third, fourth and fifth defendants and the Surveyor-General shall forthwith do all things necessary to amend all records of the State to correct errors in the description of portion 9 volume 16, folio 165, which appears to show its area of only 999.99 hectares, whereas its area and description should reflect the balance of the entire Mevelo land of 11,341 hectares, less the total area of Portions 2 to 8.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment