‘Cheated’ PNG landowners threaten to close five fish processing plants

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Lae landowners have given the papua New Guinean government seven days to review existing agreements or they will close the disputed tuna fish canneries. Video: EMTV News

By Scott Waide in Lae

Landowning clans in the Papua New Guinean city of Lae are threatening to close down five fish processing plants if the government does not review the existing agreements that govern them.

The clans, which include the Ahi and the Busulum, say they have been cheated of development benefits.

Since the agreements were signed four years ago, they have received K5000 a year for the five portions of land they own.

The threat comes after three years of complicated wrangling with the government and the companies over landowner benefits.

If the landowners have it their way, Majestic Seafoods, Frabelle and three other fish processing factories will be forced to shut down next Tuesday.

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Landowner company BUP Development is calling on the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to review the existing agreements so that they receive more in terms of landowner benefits.

Bad deal
After four years, it has now become clear, landowners got a bad deal.

The landowners are paid a total of K5000 (NZ$2225) annually for the five land portions they leased to the companies. The deal was negotiated by the provincial administration at the start of the projects.

Apart from a K2 million (NZ$890,000) premium payment made several years ago, the landowners receive little else.

They are also not party to agreements between the state and the fish processing companies.

They also do not know what the terms of the state agreement are.

The landowner company since issued a 7-day notice to the government to come to Lae for negotiations.

They are demanding K20 million in compensation as well as a review of the memorandum of agreement they signed with the companies.

Scott Waide is EMTV’s Lae bureau chief and began his career with the television station in 1997 as a news and sports reporter and anchor. He has won several awards for his journalism. This article is republished with permission.

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