Up for Grabs – Greatest land grab in PNG history exposed

Press release - 29 July, 2012

Sydney/PNG, Monday 30 July, 2012: A new report, released today by Greenpeace, details the failings of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government and the conflicts of interest that have allowed 5.1 million hectares of customary land in PNG to be given away to foreign-owned corporations and unrepresentative landowner companies for up to 99 years.

A recent leasing scheme – known as Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) – is devastating communities across PNG and facilitating the destruction of the country’s last remaining rainforests, the report reveals.
Using data and mapping analysis and drawing on yet to be tabled findings from a recent government inquiry, Greenpeace’s ‘Up for Grabs’ report also shows that 75 per cent of SABLs are controlled by foreign-owned companies – most of which are dominated by Malaysian and Australian interests.
Many of these companies paid government agency staff to undertake their statutory duties in investigating and approving these SABLs. In one case, the logging companies paid police to intimidate and brutalise landowner opposition to their land being stolen.
“The land grab in PNG is a national scandal,” said Greenpeace Forests Team Leader, Paul Winn. “People are losing their land and their livelihoods for up to three generations and their forests forever.”
“One of the first tasks of the new PNG Government must be to suspend logging under SABLs and review and amend legislation so that communities are protected from the rapacious appetite of foreign-owned logging and agriculture companies.”
“With signs that a government more concerned about this issue is set to take the reins in PNG, there is an opportunity for Australia to improve its relationships with the country by providing financial and technical assistance to develop a National Land Use Plan with the key objectives of protecting customary land rights and maintaining forest resources for future generations,” said Winn.
The ‘Up for Grabs’ report also reveals that:
PNG log exports grew by almost 20 per cent in 2011 due almost entirely to logging within SABLs.
Since 2006, logging companies have exported over 1.5 million cubic metres of whole logs from SABLs, amassing over K290 million (USD 145 million) for the companies involved. Almost all these logs were exported to China.
The largest 48 SABLs – 95 per cent of the total SABL area – include almost 14 per cent of the remaining 14.7 million hectares of Intact Forest Landscapes in PNG. These are the least developed forests in PNG. SABLs also include over 130,000 ha of PNG’s protected areas.
These SABLs also contain 12 per cent of the almost 7 billion tonnes of above ground carbon stored in PNG’s forests. If these SABLs were logged and then deforested, almost 3 billion tonnes of CO2 would be released – this is equivalent to Australia’s total CO2 emissions for the next six years.
Read the ‘Up for Grabs’ report:
Jessa Latona, Greenpeace Media Officer: 0488 208 465
Paul Winn, Greenpeace Forests Team Leader: 0409 993 438
[1] In October 2011, Malaysian logging giant, Rimbunan Hijau, financed a police crackdown against customary landholder opposition in the Pomio District in East New Britain Province. See