Negotiations with Landowners are often complicated in PNG.
Firstly, because customary land may have several overlapping claims, identifying
the correct landowners is important, and often difficult. Understanding the
cultural implications of customary land is essential.
Land issues are identified as an important source of tension
within Forest Management Agreements in Papua New Guinea. This section attempts
to summarise the attitude to land that prevails in Papua New Guinea. In doing so
there may be an understanding of land tenure that will minimise potential
Customary land tenure in PNG reflects the culture of the
country. The principles of customary land tenure include:
- Land law systems derived from social systems which reflect constant rearrangement
of power, authority and land tenure.
- Multiple kinds of tenure reflect the various benefits land provides and
the uses made of it. Land tenure is not absolute in this system.
- The relationships between groups influence the assertion of land rights
and subsequent tenure.
- Land tenure is not absolute but is repeatedly tested by competing groups.
- Boundaries are not fixed in perpetuity but reflect changes in power and
- Land rights are held in common with other members of the group.
- Because there is no traditional hierarchical system of leadership there
is no land title system.
- Land is not an economic commodity so cannot be alienated in perpetuity.
The implications of this to customary landowners
- Ownership and boundaries of land can never be fixed for all time.
- Land rights are best perceived from the centre, rather than land having
fixed boundaries. This means that greater clarity of tenure occurs at the
centre of customary land, with less distinction at the boundary of land.
- Disputes over land are never lost, rather the loser will regroup for a
- Land is not a saleable commodity.
The implications of land tenure to state or
- Signed agreements for land tenure have an inherent fallibility.
- Land tenure is subject to change and challenge.
- To apply the rules of titled land to the PNG context is to invite tension
- Land use agreements require flexibility and ongoing goodwill.
Forest Developers should include elements of the following in
- Need to be aware of the potential for tension over land use and occupancy.
- Resources devoted to minimising tension will be well spent.
- The mechanism used to acquire land should reflect the need to secure use
of land while minimising risk of tension.
- Patience, tenacity and cash resources are required to ride out periods
- PNG people will attempt to impose claims on land even when agreements have
- Good records of agreements and claims must be kept to avert further claims.