Samoa PM Encourages Customary Landowners To Use Land For Commercial Benefit


Tuilaepa: Either use your land or lease it to businesses

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Oct. 5, 2016) – Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has encouraged customary landowners to develop on their customary lands or lease them out to the business community.

Tuilaepa made the point today at the launch of the Customary Land Advisory Commission (CLAC) Communication & Consultation Strategy & Website and Materials.

He pointed out that Samoa has more than half a million acres of customary lands and only 0.31% are leased out.

“This means that 99.7% acres of customary lands are available for lease for development,” he said.

Tuilaepa said 81% of customary lands are under the care of the family chiefs – Sa’o and he encouraged the chiefs to consider the future of his family by developing on customary lands.

The lease of customary and government lands for business developments started 50 years ago, and according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) data. Only 300 lease of customary lands have been registered.

“Compared to the 81% of customary lands, only 0.31% are being leased,” said Tuilaepa.

He said there are businesses such as factories, resorts and other investments that need space and land for development, and for the chiefs to hold on to the lands, they are ignoring the economic benefits for their families.

Launched today were guidelines agreed by CLAC to guide the people when leasing out customary lands for development projects.

The project is been funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) since 2006, and is now into its 12th year.

After investigation and assessment of leasing out customary lands, CLAC was established and officially endorsed under the Land Act 2013.

The guideline is specifically to inform, discuss and dialogue with the caretakers of family customary lands, theSa’o, on leasing out of their lands.

Tuilaepa highlighted four main points CLAC think should be emphasized during any public consultations:

  • A good communication in informing customary land owners of the plans for the lands, and awareness programmes should be put in place.
  • Customary land owners should understand the reason behind public consultation, on the policies and regulations regarding leasing of customary lands, and their benefits.
  • Develop their understanding and knowledge on the reasons for development.
  • Clarify their rights as customary land owners, and also the rights of those who wish to lease.

Tuilaepa strongly believes that family matais can work together with the family Sa’o to create an environment that would benefit the family in a long term.

He also criticized some of the public who have written and spoken against Government policies that encourage the use of customary lands as collateral for development loans.

“They return with PhDs and condemn the system as if it is a bad thing, forgetting that there are other intelligent people observing,” said Tuilaepa.

The fear that the land used as collateral is lost if a loan is arrears, has reserved some people from developing or leasing out customary lands.

Tuilaepa said all customary lands are safe and secured under the Constitution,

“It is forbidden to sell customary land,” said Tuilaepa.

He also clarified that if the land was leased out to a business for ten years, and the payment is behind, the bank deals with the lease, not the land, which remains the property of the family.

CLAC Chairman Seamalepua  Oloialii Ailua said the consultation took place in 2013, and whilst some showed interest in the benefits, others wanted to develop their owns.

Benefits of leasing customary land

Fa’alogo Jeannette Asuaoa-Savea of Siumu told Talamua her family is leasing its land in Siumu to Bluesky Samoa.

“We get $500 per month which is $3,000 a year from the lease,’ she said.

She said only a small portion of the land is used by Bluesky for their telephone mast since 2009.

“The lease was for 10 years, but was recently renewed to 20 years, and we have been told by Bluesky, that there would be an increase to the amount paid,” said Fa’alogo.

Salaneta Lemalu’s family owns land at Lefaga, and part of that land is leased out to the Samoan resort since 2007 for 30 years.

There is no development on the land, but Samoana is still paying us.

Both women are grateful to the lease, as it is another financial avenue for their families.

Copyright © 2016 Talamua. All Rights Reserved

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"Fa’alogo Jeannette Asuaoa-Savea of Siumu told Talamua her family is leasing its land in Siumu to Bluesky Samoa. “We get $500 per month which is $3,000 a year from the lease,’ she said." Last time I checked, $500 per month equals $6,000 per year, not $3000. So either Fa’alogo Jeannette Asuaoa-Savea is really bad at simple math or someone is taking the other $3000 and not telling her. Either way, this is why some people argue against leasing customary lands. Somebody is going to end up on the short side of the deal and most likely it will be the customary land possessor.

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