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Timber harvesting is unquestionably an important development option for both public and private land in PNG since harvesting generates revenues. The proceeds from the sale and processing of timber are available for the distribution among landowners, government, and the forest industry (Neville 1993) and are important potential sources of funds for improving infrastructure and social services as well as for investment in downstream processing and other enterprises to create further sources of income.

Timber is particularly important in PNG because it is the only renewable industrial construction material - all others are mined (Neville 1993). However, the importance of forests not only for production of commercial timber but also for biological diversity, non-timber products, cultural values, and environmental services means that these other benefits must also be considered when planning timber harvests.

PNG's National Forestry Development Guidelines aim to establish a primary goal of sustainable development of forested land and set out broad principles and consultative processes through which decisions will be made. This is particularly important (Neville 1993) because:

The procedures set out in the NFDG (see Figure 2) include a "developments options study" which should identify possible uses of the forest with the potential of offering viable and sustainable development. The development options are then presented to the landowners who must decide on the option to be implemented, which may or not include timber production.

If timber production is selected as a development option, the next major step towards preparation of a timber permit is the enactment of a "forest management agreement" between the customary owners and the Forest Authority (PNGFA). Neighbouring "land groups" will also become parties to the agreement so that they have an opportunity to resolve disputes relating to the boundaries of their respective areas of land.

The final milestones are the preparation of a "project agreement" and its approval under the Environmental Planning Act. The timber permit will confer rights on the permit holder to carry out forest management and harvesting operations in the project area for the term of the permit, subject to the terms and conditions of the project agreement (Neville 1993).

As an example of the development implications associated with timber permits, a specific timber permit, TP10-8, is discussed and its social and economic impacts are outlined.

Almost 95% of the land under TP10-8 is customarily owned and the success of project implementation depends entirely on the agreement's reception by the landowners. The developer recognises the paramount importance of its relationship with the landowners. Historically, hostile relationships between timber permit holders and owners have almost always led to failed projects.

A land-use plan prepared under the timber permit provides information on:

The land-use plan may be reviewed from time to time by the State, not only in consultation with the company but also with the local people and as conditions warrant, may be altered and amended by mutual consent of the State, the company, and the landowners.

The landowners' early and active participation is of utmost importance in the preparation of the Annual Logging Plans. Allowing them to voice their opinions on which timber areas should be operated or divided into coupes and which priority projects should be implemented in a given year, will prevent logging blockages as the landowners' preferential views and interest will already have been incorporated in the Annual Logging Plans (VFP 1999).

Landowner participation is also essential for identifying historical, archaeological, and ethnographic sites in order to protect and safeguard the cultural heritage of the people in the timber area. The village or clan concerned must be involved in delimiting and marking such sites. Due to rapid changes in the socio-economic environment, these sites may otherwise be neglected or damaged. Buffer zones are to be established around such areas (Key Standard 2) and a "Landowner Cultural Site Identification Form," signed by the clan leader, must be included with any set-up application in compliance with the PMCP.

In 1990, when TP10-8 was granted, the project's timber areas were very sparsely populated, with some clans still living a semi-nomadic way of life. The Vanimo timber area had an indigenous population of 8,326 according to the census of 1989, which meant a 65% increase over the population of 5,044 that was recorded during the 1971 census.

Populations in the area tend to be concentrated along the coastal plains and the middle course of the Pual River and its tributaries. Although the coastal plains account for only about 1% of the timber area, they are of major importance because they support about 45% of the timber area's population. The concentration of population along the Pual River and its tributaries is due to the availability of food supplies (VFP 1990a).

Hunting of wild game on the more steeper and taboo sites, and subsistence gardening on the flatter river and creek banks is still common practice for some of the established villages like Krisa and Ossima. However, other villages in the timber area depend on sago palm (Metroxyllum sagu) as the basis for their diet.

Before the first phase of the project took place, the Vanimo area was largely undeveloped. No roads existed apart from those in the immediate vicinity of Vanimo, although a rough road from Vanimo to Ossima and Bewani had been constructed. In 1972-1975 a timber company developing the Wutung-Warumo TRP built the Vanimo-Wutung road, which provided access to the border of Indonesia. All other land communication was by foot tracks, some of which are still maintained by the villages.

In spite of being the Headquarters of Sandaun Province, Vanimo does not have road access to any other parts of PNG or even to all its major provincial districts like Aitape, Lumi, Nuku, and Telefomin.

A government-owned wharf exists in Vanimo town, which caters for small coastal shipping (the VFP company wharf is used for timber shipping only). In addition the town has a general hospital, three supermarkets, several trade stores, and a market for locally grown food crops and vegetables (VFP 1990a). The town area can be categorised into six major zones, namely open space, residential areas, commercial areas, light industrial areas, heavy industrial areas, and special-use areas such as markets, churches, and playgrounds.

Photo 21. Social life-people gathering near the supermarket and bank centre in Vanimo.

Vanimo Forest Products Ltd. has had a profound effect on the economy of Vanimo. Most of the larger shops have opened because of the company's presence. The company's major direct contribution to the economy comes from royalty payments, taxes, contributions to sporting facilities, etc. Sawnwood from the company's sawmill is also supplied to local customers for buildings (VFP 1990a).

Sandaun Province is the priority recruiting area for VFP from which the company employed 451 nationals in 1990. The total number of nationals who are both directly and indirectly supported by the Company is estimated at about 2,255, assuming that on average five family members are supported by each employee. This does not include local businessmen, landowners, government servants, or their dependants. The total number of persons employed by the company will increase substantially when the company's second wharf at Serra begins operating.

Besides Vanimo, a large number of villages benefit from infrastructure such as schools, health centres, and roads established by VFP. Existing or planned infrastructure funded by the company is shown in Figure 9. Of particular importance are the schools and health centres that scheduled to be constructed in many rural communities.

Figure 9. Map of the TP10-8 project area showing infrastructure already established or scheduled to be established by VFP (Source: VFP 1990a).

As is true anywhere, land uses in the project area depend upon the physical and biological constraints of particular areas. Cash cropping is almost non-existent within the project area except for a few villages along the coast in the east, although there is considerable potential for coffee, copra, cocoa, and cattle. Cocoa and copra grow extremely well in the area, but their development is limited by a government quarantine on export of such crops to other parts of the country, the lack of roads, and the problem of unreliable transport (VFP 1990a).

Most agricultural projects in the timber area are new, and subsistence gardening will continue to require land as more roads are built into the area, providing access for people to travel into town to sell their produce. Although the population is small at present, improving health may result in a dramatic increase in population growth that, as in many other countries, could pose a serious threat to the forest resource. This is especially critical in the steep country that prevails in much of the timber permit area, where significant agricultural clearing could cause major environmental problems.

To minimise such occurrences, the following measures may be taken (VFP 1990a):

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