Forestry Bill still in the works, 3 years on

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WORK on the outstanding Forestry Bill is still ongoing, three years on since the government came into power in 2019.

Attorney General, John Muria Junior confirmed this when responding to questions by the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee, Douglas Ete and Opposition Leader Matthew Wale in Parliament yesterday.

Muria Junior said the draft has been circulated and is in the process of ‘finalising’.

He said the ministry is trying to iron out some issues before finalising it and should be signed soon.

Island Sun understands the Solomon Forest Association had gone through the Drafting Instructions of the Forestry Bill last year.

The main objective of the Bill is to make amendments to the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act, Cap 40, in order to make it more robust and forward looking in nature to cater for the new activities and developments which is occurring in the forestry sector now and into the future its fundamental aims and objectives.

The secondary objectives and purposes of the recommended Amendment to the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act include:

Enable the Act to accommodate changes in the Forestry sector and establish the platform for changes in the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act and its relevant Regulations [2005]

The licensing and enforcement of the relevant conditions of the License

One of the recommended Amendments is the Commissioner of Forest Resources” should be replaced with the word “Forestry Technical Committee” (Commissioner will issue License based on the advice of the Forestry Technical Committee).

According to section 10 (1) the word “appropriate Government” should be replaced with the word “Council of Chiefs” and the word “Customary Land Appeal Court” should be replaced with the word “Tribal Land Panel” (as Local Court will no longer have the power to hear Land matters).

Section 17, a fine of three thousand dollars or imprisonment for two years or to both such fine and imprisonment” should be replaced with the phrase “a fine of fifty thousand dollars and five years’ imprisonment or both’.

There will be a Forestry Board established to:

To receive appeals from the Minister of Forestry and Research from aggrieved parties

To advise the Minister to lift suspended license and reinstate cancelled Felling License.

To advise the Minister of Forests on appeal matters generally

Any other matters that are referred to the Board by the Minister.

Make decisions on issues pertaining to all Forestry plantations either owned by individual, family or community.

To call up relevant expertise to advise on technical matters when needs arise.

Deliberate on the Declaration of a Moratorium when the need arises

Deliberate on forest clearance for other development purposes e.g., Agriculture, Palm oil, mining, major settlements, infrastructure developments,

To advise the government of the day on Forest Policy issues, e.g., policy review.

Forestry Board’s decision is final

Furthermore, the Ministry of Forestry and Research will put in place a Budget for all Timber Rights Hearing. The total amount should not exceed $80,000.00 dollars per sitting.