Solomons Ministry To Suspend Logging On Vanikoro

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Company holds valid license, but other requirements unfulfilled

By Ofani Eremae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 12, 2013) – The Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry will suspend Vanikoro Lumber Limited’s logging licence today.

Minister Dickson Mua confirmed this to the Solomon Star yesterday.

"We’ve issued Vanikoro Lumber Limited a 14-day notice to show cause why we should not suspend their licence," Mr Mua said.

"The notice expired yesterday and the company has not responded.

"As required by law, the Commissioner of Forests will suspend the company’s licence tomorrow (today)," the minister said.

Vanikoro Lumber Limited, a company established by some landowners on Vanikoro island in Temotu Province, was issued its three-year logging licence in 2012.

It contracted Malaysian logging firm Jaya Berjaya Ltd to carry out logging on Vanikoro island.

But the proposed logging operation was met by stiff opposition from other landowning groups when Jaya Berjaya arrived with its logging machines on the island in October this year.

The Temotu Provincial executive also refused to issue Vanikoro Lumber Limited a business licence to operate in the province.

Minister Mua explained although Vanikoro Lumber Limited holds a valid logging licence, it has no right to go ahead and do logging on the island because there are other requirements it has to meet before it can start its operation.

"Firstly, the ministry has never approved the company’s coup plan. Secondly, the ministry has not approved the company’s annual harvesting plan. Thirdly, the company has not been issued a business licence from Temotu Province. Fourthly, the Ministry of Environment has not given any approval to the company to harvest kauri trees on the island. Kauri is a protected species. Fifthly, the company has not been issued a consent letter by the director of environment," Mr Mua said.

He said it was for these reasons that his ministry issued the 14-day notice for the company to show cause.

"Failure by the company to respond to the 14-day notice means they are unable to meet the requirements under our laws to enable them carry out any logging operation.

"Therefore, we are going to suspend their licence," the minister said.

Meanwhile, Mr Mua said it would be illegal for Vanikoro Lumber and its contractor Jaya Berjaya to carry out their logging operation on the island, as landowners there have claimed.

"We understand Jaya Berjaya has already landed its machineries on Vanikoro. But it would be illegal if it goes ahead and started felling trees and hauling logs.

"If they do, then they are already breaking the law.

"But I hope this is not the case because the company should know better that it has no licence to operate in Temotu Province."

Mua also urged Temotu Premier Father Brown Beu to go and see him in his office to discuss the issue in a more cordial and official manner.

"With due respect, I think the premier’s use of the media to air his grievances is not the best and diplomatic way to deal with this issue.

"I know his stand and views on this issue. But it would be really good if he comes to my office with his executive members and we can sit down and talk," he said.

Reacting to the news yesterday, Fr Beu said if this is the step the ministry is going to take, he would like to commend them for that.

"Thank you minister for that assurance and action," he said.

Fr Beu explained he resorted to the use of the media because he was unable to reach those he wanted to talk to.

"If the minister is free this week, I will make sure I see him over this issue," he said.

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