October 22nd, 2014 

-- For immediate release --

PNG government is failing its people and environment, say scientists 

A leading scientific group is criticizing the government of Papua New Guinea for failing to make good on its promise to phase out Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), which the group sees as a major threat to PNG’s environment and people.

“The SABL situation is a mess,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia and director of ALERT—the Alliance of Leading Environmental Scientists and Thinkers.  

Many national and international groups have worried that the leases, which cover 11% of PNG’s land area and can run for as long as 99 years, will lead to serious environmental degradation and alienate indigenous groups from their traditional lands.

“A two-year Commission of Inquiry concluded that most SABLs should be abolished, and the government promised to do so,” said Corey Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “But it hasn’t happened and some of the most damaging SABLs are continuing.”

“The SABLs were supposed to promote agricultural development, but some have been misused to get around logging laws and the constitutional rights of PNG citizens to their customary land,” said Bradshaw. 

“As a result, huge amounts of rainforest are being logged and cleared and the timber sold overseas,” said Laurance.

“There’s also been widespread evidence of fraud and other irregularities,” said Bradshaw.  “In many cases the concerns of local landowners are being overrun by big corporations.”

“The PNG government needs to phase out the big SABLs that are really just a guise for logging and land theft,” said Laurance. 

“It’s not just PNG citizens that are worried about this,” said Laurance.  “The world is watching too, and we hope the PNG government can show real leadership and put a stop to this environmental and social travesty.”


For further information:

Distinguished Professor William Laurance, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Email: bill.laurance@jcu.edu.au; Phone: 07-4038-1518 (+61-7-4038-1518 internationally)