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Number Ten: 7 August 2002


The Simbali story

Another illegal logging permit granted in total breach of the requirements of the Forestry Act shows yet again the complete failure of governance in the logging sector

The National Forest Board has given approval for what was presented as a small agriculture clearance operation.

In fact the intended project is a large scale logging operation that will involve the export of logs worth over US$10 million.

The project is sponsored by the same logging company that last year was found to be illegally logging at Pondo.


On 29th May 2002, Philip Kikala, the Deputy Chair of the National Forest Board and Secretary of the Department of Planning, signed a consent for a Timber Authority to allow logging in the Simbali area of East New Britain Province.

The Timber Authority is totally unlawful as,

  1. It has been granted in complete contravention of the legal limitations on the use of such permits
  2. No attempt has been made to follow the proper allocation procedures that should have applied to the proposed project
  3. Some members of the National Forest Board and the Provincial Forest Management Committee were deceived on the nature of the proposed project
  4. There is no evidence that the permit it is based on the informed consent of the resource owners.

The logging project will involve the harvesting of over 170,000 cubic meters of round logs from an area of about 12,000 hectares. At current values the unprocessed logs will have an export value of some US$10 million.

However, the project is presented in official Forest Authority documents as if it is an agricultural clearance operation involving only 40 hectares of forest and some 1000 cubic meters of timber.

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It was on this basis that both the National Forest Board and the Provincial Forest Management Committee (PFMC) considered and granted approval for the project.

However the National Forest Board consent that was signed by Mr. Kikala did not limit the project to 40 hectares or 1000 cubic meters of timber, instead the consent was in fact unlimited in both area and volume (see below).

Simbali is an area of East New Britain between Open Bay and Wide Bay. The area was allocated and logged by Open Bay Timbers under a Timber Rights Purchase agreement that expired in 1998.

On 26th April 2002, a letter was sent from the Managing Director of the Forest Authority, to the East New Britain PFMC seeking the PFMC endorsement for the project. The letter refers to the TA application as being for "the removal of up to 50 hectares of trees for agriculture and other land use development".

With the letter were enclosed various official documents that also state that the TA will be granted for the purpose of "forest clearing operations for 40 hectares" and "the estimated volume of timber to be harvested is approximately 1000 cubic meters" (see below).

On 2nd May 2002 a submission was made to the ENB Provincial Forest Management Committee for an Agriculture Timber Authority for Simbali. The submission stated that the purpose of the TA is the "establishment of Agriculture project" and refers to a "portion of some 1,000 plus cubic meters of timber".

The draft TA that was shown to the PFMC also described the project area as 40 hectares and estimated the merchantable volume of timber as approximately 1000 cubic meters (see below).

It was on this basis that the PFMC granted their approval and the matter was referred to the National Forest Board for their consent. National Forest Board papers listed the project as an agricultural clearance of less than 50 hectares (see below) and this was duly approved.

However, the Board consent that was signed by Mr. Kikala totally fails to mention that the project is supposed to be limited in size and in area and it gives a blanket approval for "harvesting logs for commercial use" (see below).

Some of the PFMC and the NFB members have been sorely deceived, not only because the consent that has been signed is not limited in area and volume but also because the original application made to the Forest Authority made it clear from the very beginning that what was intended was a large logging operation.

The original TA application was dated December 2000 and was made by a company called Simbali Limited. The company claimed to represent the landowners of the Simbali Extension Timber Area. However the application did not include the required forms identifying the true landowners or showing their consent to the application.

 

The application stated that the resource owners wished to "sacrifice our timber resources in the area shown on the enclosed map" to provide the money to establish a cocoa plantation. The map that was submitted clearly shows the proposed boundary of the harvesting operation, which is labeled as 11,700 hectares (see below).

Also submitted were a boundary description and a resource assessment that both stated the area to be harvested as "approximately 11,700 hectares" and estimated the available timber resource to be 170,000 cubic meters (see below).

The application also included a copy of the agreement between Simbali Ltd and SSG Services Ltd, engaging SSG as the logging company for the project (see below). SSG Limited is part of the Kerewara group that has various logging interests in PNG including the illegal Pondo concession.

A Timber Authority is supposed to be a mechanism to allow specific types of small timber projects to be allocated under a procedure that is much simpler and less time consuming than the normal allocation procedures for large log export projects.

The normal requirements for a TA are that they involve the harvesting of less than 5000 cubic meters of timber and involve downstream processing or that the harvesting is to clear a small area of land for agriculture or a road.

The Forestry Act specifically does not allow a TA for the type of timber project that was being proposed at Simbali selective felling of over 150,000 cubic meters of timber across 11,700 hectares of forest.

In theses circumstances the use of a TA was a total breach of the requirements of the Forestry Act and this was only exacerbated by the fact that the PFMC and NFB were specifically deceived as to the true nature of the project. The consent that has been granted is totally illegal.

 

 

The consent signed by Philip Kikala. Note that there is no limitation on the size of area to be harvested or on the quantity of timber that can be cut

 

 

Form 167. Clearly shows that the proposed project was being processed as if it was an application to clear less than 50 hectares

 

 

 

Form 170. Clearly shows that the project was being presented as if it was just for the harvesting of approximately 1000 cubic meters of timber

 

 

Draft Timber Authority. Again the project is presented as if it is to be limited to 40 hectares of forest and 1000 cubic meters of timber

 

 

 

 

Forest Board Paper. This is all that the NFB was told about the project. Simbali is listed as a TA-03(a), Agricultural clearance of less than 50 hectares

 

Map and boundary description submitted with the original application. These clearly show that the intention is to log an area of 11,700 hectares

 

 

 

Resource statement submitted to the Forest Authority. Clearly shows the project area as 11,700 hectares and the timber resource as 170,000 cubic meters

 

Agreement between Simbali Ltd and SSG Services as the logging contractor

 


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