Colin Filer

Department of Anthropology & Sociology

University of Papua New Guinea

The following article was written in April 1991 on the basis of the author's experience over the previous year as a representative of

the University of Papua New Guinea on the Task Force mentioned in the title. Despite the somewhat optimistic tone adopted towards the end of this article, and perhaps even because of the critical tone in which parts of it are written, the Task Force died soon afterwards.

1. The Origin and Purpose of the Task Force

The Task Force on Environmental Planning in Priority Forest Areas (hereafter simply called 'the Task Force') was established by a resolution passed on the 4th of April, 1990, at the Tropical Forestry Action Plan Conference in Port Moresby. The first aim of the Task Force was to advise the Government of PNG of ways and means to protect proposed conservation areas from the immediate threat of uncontrolled logging operations. The second (and more contentious) aim was to find ways and means of persuading the customary landowners in these areas to do the same thing.

Membership of the Task Force was drawn from a variety of PNG government departments and non-government organisations (see Appendix 1). Its meetings and activities over the past year have been administered by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), whose Minister, the Honourable Jim Yer Waim, was the prime recipient of its advice. On the other hand, its activities were initially funded by a grant of US$50,000 from the World Wildlife Fund to the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP), which is a member of the PNG National Alliance of Non-Government Organisations (NANGO). Additional funds have been promised by other overseas agencies, but a surfeit of local red tape has delayed their delivery.

In 1990 the Task Force mounted two main expeditions, the first to Woodlark Island in Milne Bay Province, the second to a number of areas in New Ireland Province. The author of this paper participated in the second of these expeditions in his capacity as a professional anthropologist, and has also represented the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in the central deliberations of the Task Force. The aim of this paper is to present what might best be described as a socio-political analysis of the Task Force itself, and the context in which it has been operating, in order to assess, and hopefully to promote, the chances of halting the wanton destruction of the rainforest in Papua New Guinea.

2. The World Bank and the Knights of the Round Table

In 1988 the Government of PNG decided that the time had come for the country to participate in the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP). In May 1989 an inter-agency mission under the leadership of the World Bank began a review of the PNG forestry sector.1 Its draft report was completed in October 1989, and the final report, including a list of 'Suggested Project Proposals' (Annex 10), in February 1990. In April 1990 the customary Round Table was assembled in Port Moresby to initiate the implementation of the Plan.

There are three significant respects in which this process can be distinguished from TFAP constructions already undertaken in other tropical countries:

These peculiarities were reflected in the criticisms inevitably levelled at the review process and its outcome, notably those published by Judge Brian Brunton, Chairman of the PNG Law Reform Commission, and by a collection of NGOs under the leadership of the New Guinea Island Campaign Group and the Rainforest Information Centre, both based in New South Wales. Unimpressed by the Bank's new green clothes, they viewed the package of proposed reforms as a castle built on the sand of several of false assumptions, especially:

Nevertheless, despite these criticisms, only one NGO (Melanesian Solidarity) actually resolved to boycott and picket the proceedings of the Round Table.

The Round Table was in fact a square table, located in the conference room of Port Moresby's Islander Hotel. The four sides were occupied by four different categories of participants. Once the Prime Minister had concluded his opening address, the top end was reserved for the Ministers and Secretaries of the government departments which had some part to play in the implementation of the Plan. Despite the significance of the occasion, however, it was only the Minister for Forests, the Honourable Karl Stack, who lasted the whole three days of discussion, and thus assumed the unlikely role of King Arthur. Down one side of the table sat the constantly shifting, sometimes serried, ranks of more junior government officials, amongst whom the two line departments were noticeably outnumbered by the Prime Minister's Department (PMD) and the Department of Finance and Planning (DFP). Facing them, on the other side of the table, sat the unshifting, unserried ranks of the aid donors, multilateral and bilateral. The place of Sir Lancelot, immediately to the left of the Honourable Minister, was taken alternately by the representatives of the World Bank and the UNDP. At the bottom end of the table, facing the Minister, and often frowning at him, sat the motley bunch of white knights from the NGOs, national and international, with a delegation from the University of PNG uncomfortably but appropriately squeezed into the corner nearest the exit.

By and large, the Conference adhered to the ritual formalities prescribed by its agenda: the Government welcomed the Plan, the NGOs expressed their doubts about it, the donors indicated their interest in funding different parts of it, and the Honourable Minister wrapped up the proceedings with a rousing speech. But behind the scenes, in the backrooms, bars and parlours of the Islander, where the Bank was busily arranging the customary marriages between donors and recipients, the NGOs were struggling to bring forth a device that would justify their own attendance at the ceremony. The Task Force was the product of their labours.

The proposal to establish the Task Force (Appendix 3) included a recommendation that no new Timber Permits be granted over any of the 27 areas whose conservation value had been recognised in the World Bank report (Appendix 2). Some of the NGO participants were possibly surprised, and even puzzled, when this proposal won the unanimous endorsement of the Round Table, including the Minister himself. But they were even more surprised when the Minister went on to announce that he would recommend to Cabinet the imposition of a two-year moratorium, starting in July 1990, on the granting of any new Timber Permits and an indefinite moratorium on the granting of permits for the export of unprocessed logs.

2. The Moratorium and the Task Force

In some respects, the Minister's announcement did not represent a significant departure from existing government policy. In July 1989, Cabinet had accepted his recommendation to impose a 2-year moratorium on the issue of new Timber Permits in five of PNG's nineteen provinces, for reasons which were not entirely clear, but certainly included the need to make a quick public response to Judge Barnett's final report, which had just been delivered to the Prime Minister.3 The Minister had also been instrumental in securing a ban on the export of certain premium species, such as rosewood and ebony, in unprocessed form, and was known to be considering the extension of this ban to other species. The aim of this exercise was neither the preservation of trees, nor the limitation of opportunities for corruption, but the promotion of domestic industry.

The surprise which greeted the Minister's announcement at the Round Table was partly due to the World Bank's previously stated disapproval of such artificial measures. The conservationists did not expect to find that the Bank's recipe for continued log exports would prove as unpalatable to the Minister as it was to themselves. And this was partly because the NGOs present at the Round Table had been internally divided over the question of whether and how they should express their own demand for a moratorium in a forum where the Bank's views were expected to prevail.

In theory, there could be no risk of confusion between the Minister's motives and those of the conservationists who openly distrusted him as much as they disliked the economics of the Bank. As Brunton put it:

The reason why PNG needs to stop exporting logs is not because it could earn more money by selling processed timber. PNG must stop exporting logs because logging is out of co [text missing]
way of trumping the NGO card by making the Task Force redundant.

Certainly the nationwide moratorium would entail a very considerable restriction of further logging operations. In its own Medium-Term Development Strategy, published in 1989, the Department of Forests calculated that the national resource would be 'developed' as follows (DOF 1989:127-129):

Year New Projects Extensions

1988 16 (953,000 ha)4 5 (56,827 ha)

1989 14 (1,625,000 ha) 8 (101,712 ha)

1990 14 (841,000 ha) 6 (571,309 ha)

1991 16 (area unknown)

At the time of the Round Table, Timber Permits had still not been issued for several of the new projects planned for development from 1988 to 1990. Some of these projects, as well as those planned for 1991, were almost certain to impinge on one or other of the 27 'suggested areas for conservation/preservation' listed in Annex 6 of the World Bank report.5 It therefore seemed that the Minister had agreed to the type of moratorium requested by the NGOs - and more besides.

However, the guarantees were not watertight. To begin with, the Minister allowed that four projects in an 'advanced stage of preparation' would be exempted from the moratorium in order to save the relevant landowners from excessive disappointment.6 These were:

In addition, permits would continue to be issued for extensions to existing projects, and the Minister did not care to specify a limit to the quantity or size of these extensions. Nor, of course, could he be certain that the moratorium would prove acceptable to his own Cabinet colleagues. And finally, he wanted the Round Table to know that the moratorium might well elicit a 'backlash' from landowners whose one great demand was for 'development'.

But in this last respect, the NGOs found that the Minister was once again climbing into the bed which they already occupied, and again doing so under the cover of government policy. During his opening address to the Round Table, the Prime Minister himself had remarked that:

If this [forest] resource is considered of such high ecological value to the nation or the world community that it should be fully conserved, then the villagers should be compensated for the opportunities foregone by not harvesting it. (Namaliu 1990:3)

The NGOs had no quarrel with this. On the contrary, they had already mooted the idea of creating a Trust Fund in order to provide financial incentives for landowners to exercise their 'conservation option'. But it soon transpired, during the proceedings of the Round Table, that the idea of 'compensating' landowners for leaving their trees alone was anathema to the donor agencies. Indeed, this was the main reason why the NGO submission to the Round Table had to be rewritten several times before the donors would agree to endorse it. So the Minister's armour shone once more when he conceded that the donors could not be expected to 'put money in the pockets of the landowners', but quickly parried with an insistence that the conservation option would not be chosen in the absence of some alternative form of rural development.

Perhaps the greatest source of pride and pleasure to the NGOs was that they had apparently convinced the Minister to concede the declaration of Southern New Ireland (Area 23 in Appendix 2) as a priority conservation area, despite their knowledge that his Department was on the verge of issuing a Timber Permit for the Lak TRP, which occupied the greater part of it. This was also something of a surprise, because he had not shown any comparable reluctance to exempt the Collingwood Bay project from his moratorium, despite the fact that this would also impinge on one of the areas which the World Bank had recommended for World Heritage status (Area 12 in Appendix 2), and despite the fact that he had just endorsed an NGO proposal to prohibit logging in such areas.

Be that as it may, the result was a drawn game. The Minister could declare that his moratorium was a 'signal' to the international community of his own and his government's good faith in achieving the aims of the TFAP. When the NGOs persuaded the Round Table to declare Southern New Ireland a priority conservation area, and the Minister then allowed the Lak project to be covered by his moratorium, this could be taken as the crucial test of that good faith.7

The Task Force Goes to Work

Once the Round Table had dissolved, officials in the DEC Environmental Planning Division set about constructing the first draft of a project description for the Task Force. They also produced their own list of five potential conservation areas under immediate threat from existing or proposed logging operations (see Map 1). Unsurprisingly, Southern New Ireland and Collingwood Bay were first and second on the list, followed by Woodlark and Fergusson Islands (Milne Bay), Mount Giluwe (Southern Highlands), and Lake Dakatua (West New Britain). In each area, strenuous attempts would be made to halt existing logging operations and postpone the issue of new Timber Permits until the operators had produced acceptable environmental plans. It was proposed that a Task Force team would visit the Lak area in June to make a detailed assessment of its conservation value and open negotiations with the local landowners. Visits to Collingwood Bay and the Milne Bay islands were also mooted.

These priorities were publicised at a press conference held by the Minister for Environment and Conservation on the 17th of May, and by the end of that month, DEC had circulated an itinerary for the New Ireland expedition, which was to take place between the 11th and 23rd of June. The scope of the expedition had been extended to include meetings and surveys in Kavieng (the provincial capital), the Umbukul TRP area on the island of Lavongai (New Hanover), the Lelet Plateau, and the Danfu Timber Permit areas, as well as the Lak TRP.8 The stated aim of the expedition was 'to propose and promote to the Provincial Government and local landowners public awareness of the need for formal environmental planning in the proposed and current logging areas and also the proposed National Conservation and World Heritage areas'.

{2}Map 1: PNG Location Map

{3}Map 2: Woodlark Island

{4}Map 3: The Lak Area

{5} This plan was shelved as the result of advice, from various quarters, that the Lak landowners were thoroughly hostile to the aims of the Task Force. If Lak would be a hard nut to crack, and since its cracking was perceived to be a top priority, there was much to be said for first testing the resources of the Task Force in a less contentious area. It was therefore decided to postpone the New Ireland expedition until a visit had first been made to Woodlark Island, whose population was more likely to be sympathetic.

The First Sortie: Woodlark

The Woodlark Team flew from Port Moresby to Alotau on the 13th of June. That same afternoon, a meeting was held with the Milne Bay Premier, Kaidama Elliott, and an assortment of provincial politicians and officials, primarily to explain the work of the Task Force. On the following morning, most of the Team members flew from Alotau to Guasopa on a chartered aircraft, but three national government officers had to be left behind to twiddle their thumbs in Alotau because their places were mysteriously taken by provincial government officers who had business of their own in the vicinity of Woodlark Island.

The eight members of the Team who succeeded in reaching the Subdistrict Headquarters at Guasopa then spent a total of four nights on the island, returning to Port Moresby on the 18th.9 From Guasopa, the Team made its way across to Kulumadau (see Map 2), where BHP and Milne Bay Logging (MBL) both maintain base camps in connection with their respective mineral exploration and timber extraction activities. From this point, different members of the Team explored those features of the local environment which were of special interest to them, but those whose interests included the opinions of the local villagers reassembled for two major meetings at Kulumadau on the afternoon of the 16th and then again at Guasopa on the afternoon of the 17th.

Since the arrival of the Team had been reasonably well publicised, most of the villages in the Census Division were represented at one or other of these meetings. In both cases, separate preliminary meetings were held with the local women, but women also attended the main meeting at Guasopa. Four of the Team members - Johnson Mantu, Mike Patchett, David Vosseler and Harry Sakulas - played a prominent role in the dialogue which occurred at these meetings. Johnson and Mike concentrated primarily on the importance of conserving the natural environment, while David and Harry expounded the alternative development options, like walkabout sawmilling and eco-tourism, which might be chosen in preference to the destructiveness of large-scale mining and logging.

In both major meetings, especially the second, there was a noticeable division of public opinion over the relative merits of conservation, as expounded by the Team, and 'development', as represented by BHP and MBL. The older generation was largely inclined to accept the conservationist message, and to deplore some of the destruction already caused by the activities of the 'developers', while the younger generation was more acutely divided on this question, reflecting the fact that both companies have employed a considerable number of young men who otherwise have little chance of earning a cash income.

Although the Team secured a generally favourable reaction to its message, some part of this reaction may have been due to the strong sense of decorum which governs the conduct of public meetings in Milne Bay, and some was clearly conditional upon the ability of the Task Force to provide further proof that its 'alternatives' were genuine. Aside from these considerations, there is one significant respect in which Woodlark differs radically from most of the areas with which the Task Force is concerned: much of its surface was alienated from customary tenure during the early years of the colonial administration, so many, if not most, of the local villagers are not the legal 'owners' of the land they use. Some of the villagers who welcomed the intervention of the Task Force seem to have done so in the hope or expectation that a programme of 'conservation' would entail the final restoration of their customary rights, while others suspected, on the contrary, that it might entail a reassertion of state ownership.

To the best of my knowledge, the only members of the Woodlark Team who wrote reports of their visit were Michael Young (the anthropologist), David Vosseler (FSP), and Harry Sakulas (WEI). Michael has provided a detailed summary of the ethnographic information on Woodlark and its relationship to the surrounding islands, and has since solicited the comments of Fred Damon, an American anthropologist who has conducted two periods of fieldwork in Wabunun village (see Map 2). His report also makes a number of pertinent observations about local attitudes to 'development' and the manner in which other Team members addressed these attitudes (see Young, this volume). David and Harry, as representatives of local NGOs, were primarily concerned to discuss the possibilities of developing a range of small-scale enterprises on the island. Unfortunately, no attempt has been made to integrate these two perspectives.

The Second Sortie: New Ireland

At its first formal meeting, on the 9th of August, the Task Force was advised that politicians in the New Ireland Provincial Government, including the Premier, were still clamouring for Minister Stack to approve more logging projects in the Province, including the Lak project. Unless the Task Force took positive and immediate action to extend the period available for consideration of the Lak Environmental Plan, which was about to be submitted to DEC, the Minister was unlikely to resist this pressure. Despite the evidence of local political opposition, a visit to the Province would not only provide an opportunity to test the strength and depth of that opposition, but would also provide the pretext for Minister Waim to buy more time from Minister Stack.

The Team travelled from Port Moresby to Kavieng on the 26th of August, and spent the next week travelling the length and breadth of New Ireland by helicopter, Landcruiser, boat and, finally, on foot. The Team Leader, Kembi Watoka, failed to catch the plane, so his place was taken by Johnson Mantu, who had already played a prominent role in the Woodlark expedition. Thirteen other individuals joined the Team for some or all of its time in the Province (see Appendix 1), including a two-man film crew whose aim was to produce and market a TV documentary on the efforts of the Task Force.

On the morning of the 27th, the Team held a meeting with relevant provincial officials, chaired by the Administrative Secretary, Ezekiel Tomon. Provincial politicians were conspicuous by their absence. Mr Tomon complained that the Province had not been properly informed about the TFAP or the Task Force, and was interested to know whether either of these phenomena would generate the funds required to compensate for recent cuts in the Provincial budget. The Team provided some information, but could not provide any promises. Mr Tomon lent the Team a pair of Provincial forestry officials, and then closed the meeting.

The Team then split in two. One group boarded a Landcruiser and set off down the Buluminski Highway to monitor established logging operations and survey potential conservation areas on the mainland of New Ireland. The other group boarded a helicopter and flew to the island of Lavongai (New Hanover), to hold the first of a series of village meetings designed to encourage or persuade local landowners to think twice about the benefits of logging. After two days of monitoring and surveying, the first group got bogged down in a muddy hole just north of Silur Patrol Post (see Map 3), and did not accomplish very much thereafter. The helicopter enabled the debating team and the film crew to make greater physical progress through the Lak area, but we also got bogged down in a metaphysical hole containing the minds of the landowners.

Aside from myself and the film crew, the second group comprised our Leader, Johnson Mantu, the Director of the Wau Ecology Institute, Harry Sakulas, and an expert in walkabout sawmilling, Kamung Matrus. On Lavongai we were accompanied by Debon Logo, the Assistant Secretary in the Provincial Division of Forests. In Lak his place was taken by Elvit Remas, another forestry officer who also happened to originate from the area, and was therefore able to act as an interpreter in our debates with the landowners.

Despite the expensive luxury of the helicopter, we were only able to hold a total of five village meetings - two on Lavongai (at Noipuas and Baungung), three in Lak (at Matkamlagir, Silur and Morukon).10 During our stay in Matkamlagir, some private talks were also held with the Lak MPA, Ezekiel Waisale, who turned out to be less hostile (or more devious) than anticipated. And, by an odd stroke of good luck, the film crew was unintentionally stranded for a night in the village of Siar, where the villagers promptly mounted a photogenic ceremonial display.

Generally speaking, it is difficult to maintain that the outcome of this expedition was worth the K30,000 which was spent on it. Landowners resisting the issue of the Umbukul TP were certainly given some encouragement in their struggle, but might have managed just as well without the intervention of the Task Force, which could not even argue that the TRP had been designated as a conservation area. In Southern New Ireland, which had been so designated, there was no comparable resistance in the landowning community, so the Task Force could only delay the logging project by appealing to higher authorities and wider audiences. Our problems in Lak were not unexpected, and were obviously compounded by the bad weather, but a great deal more might well have been achieved if so much money had not been spent on simultaneously transporting such a large and diverse group of experts over such great distances.11

As in the Woodlark case, the only written reports arising from this exercise appear to be those of the non-government participants. Harry Sakulas made a record of the most prominent sentiments voiced at our various meetings, while Kamung Matrus reflected on the economic viability of walkabout sawmilling in Southern New Ireland. For reasons explained in Section 3.3 (below), my own 'report' was a newspaper feature article which discussed the political context of the choice between conservation and 'development' in Lak (see Filer, this volume). As in the Woodlark case, no provision was made for integrating the observations of Team members into a single document with a specific set of recommendations for further action.

The Task Force Runs Aground

Once the New Ireland expedition had been completed, the Task Force encountered a series of obstacles which virtually brought its activities to a halt. No meetings were held, and little else was achieved, between the 11th of October 1990 and the 4th of March this year. In one sense, this period of hibernation was simply due to a shortage of resources - time, enthusiasm, ideas and, above all, the funds required to maintain an effective organisation. The corridors and paths of power in PNG are littered with the bodies of dead task forces, all of which have come to grief in much the same way. And this is not only because they run out of food or steam, but also because they are constantly obstructed by the routine behaviour of people operating around them. In the present case, I have divided these people into four categories - politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and landowners - and I propose to discuss each of them in turn. These characters are not necessarily hostile to the aims of the Task Force; they are simply going about their normal business in their normal way. PNG is not always 'the land of the unexpected'.

The First Obstacle: Politicians

Immediately following the dissolution of the Round Table on the 4th of April, Minister Stack gave a press conference at which he reiterated the contents of his closing speech - with one interesting exception. The list of projects to be exempted from his moratorium had already grown, in the space of an hour, from four to six, for it now included Arawe (West New Britain) and Central New Ireland.12 However, the press was assured that 28 projects would still be covered by the moratorium (Post-Courier 5/4/90), and the Lak project was evidently still one of them.

No sooner had the Minister embarked on the task of lengthening his list of exemptions than another test of his definitional flexibility presented itself in the shape of 170 ebony logs sitting on a Port Moresby wharf, awaiting shipment to Japan.13 Customs officers were curious to know whether the four-sided appearance bestowed upon the logs by the use of axes was evidence of the 'processing' required for the export of such premium species. While Forestry officials ruminated on the meaning of the word 'flitch', the Minister boldly announced that the logs 'could not be exported in their present form' (Post-Courier 10/4/90). On the next day, the ban was lifted on the curious grounds that 'the Japanese buyer needed the black wood for large poles' (Post-Courier 11/4/90).14

Even as the Minister was debating this matter in the pages of the national newspapers, he was also circulating a draft Cabinet submission on the moratorium in which the list of proposed exemptions had once again been altered and extended. For reasons which are not entirely clear, the Arawe, Gorohu, Inland Pomio and Central New Ireland projects no longer figured in the list, but eight new projects had been added to it, including the Lak project in Southern New Ireland.15 It seems the Minister was beginning to experience a little of the 'backlash' which he had mentioned at the Round Table.

Unfortunately, his Cabinet submission did not receive the publicity which might have revealed the particular nature of this pressure, although the media did report some rumblings of discontent about the moratorium from 'landowners' in various parts of the country, especially New Ireland. Perhaps he had reason to be grateful when the Environment Minister, Jim Yer Waim, stole the limelight by promising to suspend a number of established logging operations until the operators produced adequate environmental plans.16 But Minister Waim's tub-thumping seems to have exerted some impact on Cabinet when it agreed to the two-year moratorium at its meeting on the 30th of May, because the list of exempted projects was now cut back to five. These were:

The decision made it perfectly clear that these were the only new projects for which Timber Permits would be issued after the 23rd of July, when the moratorium was to take effect.

When, six days later, Cabinet members combined with other dignitaries to celebrate World Environment Day by planting trees along Kumul Parade, one might suppose that they were offering symbolic confirmation of their resolution. But it seems that word of the decision had already reached the ears of the New Ireland Premier, Pedi Anis, who was not at all pleased to discover that the list of exemptions did not extend to a number of new 'developments' in his own province. In this case, the 'backlash' appears to have consisted of pressure exerted upon the Minister for Forests by the Minister for Justice, the Honourable Bernard Narokobi, who was presumably persuaded by Premier Anis that the future provincial fortunes of their Melanesian Alliance party depended on the speedy issue of several new Timber Permits.18 At the end of June, Stack was able to advise his ministerial colleague that 'the Government' had decided to add the Central New Ireland, Mamirum, Umbukul and Lak projects to the list of exemptions.

From the information available, it appears that this new decision was made by the Minister himself, not by Cabinet, and was therefore in breach of Cabinet's previous approval of the moratorium. The decision was certainly not communicated to the Task Force, let alone the general public. Indeed, public attention was quickly diverted from developments in New Ireland by the noise of debate over various timber projects in Madang Province, where, somewhat ironically, the Minister was able to cast his own decisions in a much better light.

This debate was triggered by the acrimonious confrontation between an environmentalist pressure group, Madang Citizens for a Better Environment, and the 'developmentalist' Madang Premier, Andrew Ariako, who was accused of misrepresenting or ignoring landowner interests in his haste to secure the issue of new Timber Permits before the national moratorium came into effect. Observing that the main bone of contention was the Josephstaal project, Minister Stack lost no time in dusting off his suit of shining armour and riding to the defence of the Josephstaal landowners, claiming (correctly) that there was no need to issue the Timber Permit without proper consultation because Cabinet had specifically exempted this project from the moratorium. This point had apparently not penetrated the mind of the Premier, who openly boasted that he and his colleagues, in their capacity as 'representatives' of the landowners, had negotiated and signed a Logging and Marketing Agreement with Korean company Kosmo Resources in the space of a single Saturday afternoon, the 30th of June, and were daily expecting the arrival of the Permit (Post-Courier 3/7/90). Not having been a party to this arrangement, Minister Stack turned it to his own advantage by uttering periodic public complaints about the constitution of the 'landowner company', Josephstaal Development Corporation, in which the Premier possessed a questionable interest.19 Insofar as these justified an indefinite refusal to issue the Timber Permit (it has still not been issued) they also served to deflect attention from the number of other Timber Permits which were still being processed and issued after the moratorium came into effect.

This strategy was not appreciated by DEC officials engaged in their own battle to ensure that no new Timber Permits were granted without their own Minister's approval of the relevant Environmental Plans, and that Minister Waim himself would not approve these Plans against the advice of his own Department, which could therefore act as the ultimate guardian of the moratorium. Their first defeat came on the 25th of September, when Minister Stack issued a Timber Permit for the North Vanapa project in Central Province. Salt was rubbed in their wounds when, on the 4th of October, he granted two more, one for the Sogeram project in Madang, the other for the Inland Pomio project in East New Britain. Understandably aggrieved, they accused him of breaching the original Cabinet decision, which had not exempted any of these projects from the moratorium, as well as the Environmental Planning Act, because Minister Waim had not yet approved the Plans for these projects (Post-Courier 22/11/90).

Since Minister Stack had constantly referred to the original list of exemptions during his skirmishes over the Josephstaal project, he could no longer resort to his previous tactic of adding new projects to the list without explicit Cabinet approval. Instead, he produced a new set of elastic criteria for exempting projects from what he described as 'the need for exemption' (see Appendix 6).

In the Minister's original undertaking to the Round Table, and also in the Cabinet decision which endorsed this undertaking, there was only one such criterion: the allocation of extensions to existing projects would be allowed to proceed.20 Furthermore, the distinction which DOF officials draw between an 'extension' and a 'new project' is not as flexible as the Minister might have wished. But now he has discovered three other types of project which, in retrospect, did not need to be included in the list of exemptions, namely:

These definitions have all the precision of a sago dumpling. And, as if these alone were not sufficient to keep the Timber Permits flowing, the Minister announced, at the beginning of this year, that he would be seeking Cabinet approval to 'substitute' other new projects for those, like Josephstaal, which were officially exempted from the moratorium by Cabinet's earlier decision, but which were 'now having problems' (Appendix 6).

It is indeed true that only one of the five projects included in Cabinet's earlier list of exemptions has so far been given any kind of green light - and that is the Arawe project in West New Britain, part of which (West Arawe) was approved on the 25th of October. The Minister has since decided, with or without Cabinet approval, to 'substitute' the Morobe Coast project for the Cromwell project (also in Morobe), and contractors were invited to express their interest in the former project by March of this year. This presumably means that three other substitutions can still be made before the full-time whistle blows on the moratorium in 1992.21

It is true that DOF records do make a distinction between 'defunct projects to be revived' and 'new investment projects' (DOF 1989:126-9), but the distinction is not a stable one, because of the frequency with which timber permits have been issued, withdrawn and reissued with respect to the same TRP. These are the shifting grounds on which the Minister approved the North Vanapa, Sogeram and Inland Pomio projects in 1990, and, more recently, the Central New Ireland project (29/1/91) and the Vailala Block 1 project in Gulf Province (28/2/91).

It is not at all easy to interpret the Minister's own distinction between projects which have been 'allocated for some time' and those which are 'ready for allocation', because it is not clear what is being allocated, nor what point in time divides past allocations from those which are 'ready'. The most plausible interpretation is that the first category consists of the two new projects, Gara-Modewa (Central Province) and Rai Coast (Madang Province) whose Timber Permits were actually issued between the 4th of April, when the Minister promised the moratorium, and the 23rd of July, when it was implemented.22

In that case, the second category would comprise all those projects whose permits were either 'ready' (but not yet issued) at the time when the moratorium came into effect, or those which, as a result of further activity, have become 'ready' at any subsequent moment. This category is apparently designed to embrace all those new projects which cannot plausibly be 'substituted' for those in the official list of exemptions. Contractors have recently been invited to 'express their interest' in one such project (East Kikori) in Gulf Province, and there are strong rumours that the Minister has recently granted a Permit for another such project (Embi-Hanao) in Oro Province. But the first, and most remarkable, of the projects admitted under this heading is our old friend in Southern New Ireland, the Lak project, whose Permit was issued by the Minister on the 7th of December last year.

The twisted history of the Lak Timber Permit perfectly illustrates the obscurity of the Minister's reasoning. As we have seen, Lak was not one of the four projects which the Minister proposed to exempt from the moratorium when he first mooted the concept to the Round Table. And this was certainly not because the Lak TP was then 'ready for allocation' and therefore 'did not need exemption'. On the contrary, the four projects which did need exemption at that time, according to the Minister himself, were precisely those which were 'ready for allocation', and although it may be true that the Lak TP was as 'ready' as the four which the Minister listed, he was actually persuaded not to include Lak in the list because it was part of a proposed World Heritage Area. Although he subsequently changed his mind, he clearly still thought that the project 'needed exemption', because he included it in the longer list of exemptions submitted to Cabinet. But Lak was one of the projects which Cabinet did not agree to exempt when it imposed the moratorium. Even then, the Minister still thought, for a time, that it 'needed exemption', because he told the Justice Minister that it was one of the four New Ireland projects which had somehow been added to the list approved by Cabinet. Only later did he make the convenient discovery that Cabinet had not exempted projects beacuse they were 'ready for allocation', but for some entirely different reason, the nature of which has never been revealed. The best that can be said is that, in this one case, Minister Stack delayed his issue of the Timber Permit until one day after Minister Waim had approved the Environmental Plan for the project. But, by that time, Minister Waim's resolve had been diluted to the same watery consistency as Minister Stack's excuses.23

In view of this bizarre sequence of decisions, it is interesting to consider the points made by the Forests Minister in one of his press releases late last year:

The fact of the matter is that my ministry is implementing the moratorium in spite of the political (both provincial and national) and landowners' pressure to allow more projects to be developed... In spite of daily lobbying and visits by landowners and politicians to the Department of Forests and my ministry, we are strongly honouring the moratorium and our advice to them has been that until its expiry in 1992 the moratorium must stand... I would like to make it clear it was at my own initiative that the moratorium has been imposed and it would be ridiculous if I were now to contradict it by allowing more projects than the ones exempted. (Post-Courier 11/12/90; see also Appendix 6)

Since the Minister has never seen fit to reveal the identity of the projects which he has not approved because they are covered by the moratorium, it is difficult to establish the criteria by which he has been dealing, on a daily basis, with the queues of 'landowners and politicians' at his office door. Given the number of years which normally pass between the demarcation of a TRP and the removal of the trees which it contains, it is equally difficult to believe that there is any such project whose Timber Permit might conceivably have been allocated before July 1992, with or without the moratorium.

But there is a genuine problem here. Why did the Minister bother to promote the idea of a moratorium if he had little or no intention of abiding by it?

Without another Commission of Inquiry, we may never know the answer to these questions.

The Second Obstacle: Bureaucrats

Despite the apparent unanimity with which the Round Table endorsed the NGO proposal to establish the Task Force, the Department of Finance and Planning had some difficulty in swallowing this concept. This was partly because the Task Force had not been included in the official package of proposals designed by the World Bank and repackaged by the bureaucrats as their own submission to the Round Table (Appendix 4). But it also reflected the absence of any bureaucratic mechanism whereby the Task Force could readily establish its own credibility as an organisation capable of achieving its stated goals.

This was one of several tussles between DFP, DEC and the NGOs which came to be aired at meetings of the TFAP (subsequently NFAP) Steering Committee, a body which was established in August 1990 to coordinate the planning and implementation of all TFAP projects.24 At the first meeting, DFP was persuaded to accept the Task Force as a legitimate project, mainly by virtue of the argument that it could be seen as a curtain-raiser for the offical project on the 'Strategy, Design and Implementation of Conservation and World Heritage Areas' (Appendix 5). But the onus was then placed on DEC to produce Terms of Reference for the Task Force that would demonstrate the nature of this link. The Terms of Reference (originally constructed in April) were duly presented at the second meeting of the Committee (Appendix 4). They now proved unacceptable to DFP because:

DEC was therefore asked to amend the Terms of Reference to avoid these unpleasant obscurities, and the amended version was duly brought to the fourth meeting of the Committee.

DFP was still not wholly satisfied, so the Committee adopted the ancient bureaucratic practice of accepting the proposal in principle but withholding actual approval while the two departments sorted out their differences. For many months, the Committee heard nothing of the outcome, and, until very recently, the DFP's Office of International Development Assistance (OIDA) has consequently refused to make a formal request for additional Task Force funding.25

As a result of this stalemate, the Task Force simply ran out of money. The trips to Woodlark Island and New Ireland consumed over 80% of the US$50,000 (about K48,000) initially donated by the World Wildlife Fund. After other minor costs had been met, there was only K3,500 left to pay for the return visits which had been promised to the landowners in both locations, let alone visits to new areas. A total of about K220,000 had been made available in separate undertakings by USAID and AIDAB, but the release of these funds awaited the request which did not come from OIDA.26

However, the effectiveness of the Task Force is not simply a function of the amounts of money which have or have not been injected into it over the past year, but also depends on the manner in which that money has been, and might have been, spent. To judge by the experience to date, especially the outing to New Ireland, short visits to obscure places by large and diverse groups of experts are not a cost-effective way of achieving the aims of the Task Force. Too much time is spent in first-class hotels and chartered aircraft; too little time is spent with the landowners whose needs and views are criticial to the outcome of the exercise. The preference for expeditions of this kind reflects established bureaucratic practice; it also reflects the fact that team members have not been hired to complete a particular task, but have voluntarily taken time out from their normal occupations in order to participate, and do not have the additional spare time required to convert their observations into plans for further action. Reports have not been written, return visits have not been made, benefit packages have not been designed. Task Force meetings in the capital have not been consistently attended by the same group of individuals, have not established a clear set of priorities, and have not managed to escape from discussion of routine administrative matters - especially the matter of the missing money.

To some extent, these problems have been recognised and addressed in the Task Force budgets produced in anticipation of the funds promised by USAID and AIDAB. In the first-year budget which accompanied the project proposal submitted to the Steering Committee in October last year (Appendix 4), K40,500 was dedicated to the employment and housing of a full-time Executive Officer, K57,900 to the engagement of local consultants, and K4,800 to miscellaneous local employment. Taken together, these sums exceeded the K90,600 dedicated to local travel and accommodation.

But one of the main reasons why DFP has been unwilling to request the extra money is that FSP, apparently supported by the other NGOs, has consistently argued that it should be able to appoint an Executive Officer of its own choice, and then assume full responsibility for administering the affairs of the Task Force. DFP seems to have taken the view that all individuals receiving salaries under the auspices of the NFAP, including the Task Force Executive Officer, must be public servants. The irony of this policy, in the present instance, is that it had the effect of eliminating the grant of K60,000 promised by USAID, which was specifically intended to pay for this position to be established as part of FSP's administration of the Task Force, because USAID would not permit this money to be diverted into the public purse. And that is one of the main reasons why the NGOs are so intensely aggravated by the whole affair.

The compromise which accompanied the Steering Committee's final approval of the project was that DEC would recruit the Executive Officer to one of its own vacant positions, thus deleting this person's salary from the Task Force budget. The latest version of the budget envisages the spending of K525,550 over a two year period (1991-2), and the sums set aside each year for 'local consultancies' and 'local employment' have been raised to K60,000 and K6,000 respectively. The Executive Officer's 'accommodation' is still included in the budget (at K15,000 a year), as if to entice applications from public servants who normally lack this perk.27 Administrative costs (calculated at 15% of the remaining items in the budget) are still to be allocated to FSP.

Despite this compromise, the underlying problem has not been resolved. The problem is that this Task Force, like others before it, has already come to resemble a mobile inter-departmental government committee, and if it retains this organisational form, whatever the shape of its budget, it is unlikely to produce anything more remarkable than inter-departmental communications.

As matters stand, the only government department which has a vested interest in the stated aims of the Task Force is DEC. DOF is represented by an individual whose personal sympathy with these aims is certainly not matched by the support of his departmental colleagues. The DME representatives are primarily there to ensure that the Task Force does not inadvertently discourage the process of mineral exploration. The interests of other departments are not so clearly expressed, because their representatives are generally absent. But, while this has given DEC the upper hand, in terms of numbers, its own officers have signally failed to develop a clear and consistent division of roles and responsibilities amongst themselves. This is not entirely surprising, because the organisational weakness of DEC is the target of a separate NFAP project which has yet to be implemented. But, even if DEC were better able to perform its coordinating function, its officers would still be in the business of monitoring, regulating, and sometimes obstructing, the process of 'development'. They would not be expected to possess the experience necessary to design and (above all) deliver those alternative forms of development which local landowners are demanding of the Task Force. That is why FSP does not regard DEC as the best place from which to recruit a Task Force Executive Officer.

The donors who have shown interest in funding the Task Force (and other NGO initiatives) are well aware of the nature of this problem. So is the World Bank, which is not immune to the wealth of criticism which NGOs themselves have levelled at the TFAP track record (see Winterbottom 1990). Even the bureaucrats in Waigani have acknowledged the need to establish some 'mechanism' whereby the local NGOs can eat from the Government's hand without treading on the Government's toes. The NFAP Steering Committee agreed last year that a sub-committee should be formed to look into this matter, but DFP could not decide whether the 'lead role' should be assigned to OIDA (which is responsible for the money) or to the Social Affairs Division (which is responsible for the NGOs). The sub-committee has never met.

3 The Third Obstacle: Journalists

This section is written in a more personal vein, because it concerns the strange history of the newspaper feature article which is reproduced as a separate chapter in this volume. This story does not carry the same weight as my previous account of the problems posed by politicians and bureaucrats, but it does serve to illustrate the fact that obstacles are also to be found on the side of the angels.

My experience of the Task Force trip to New Ireland last August convinced me that the only chance of keeping the bulldozers and chainsaws out of the Lak area was to generate a level of public awareness which would make the politicians think twice before they jumped into the pockets of the logging contractor. At the Task Force meeting immediately following this trip, on the 3rd of September, I suggested that an exercise in publicity would be the most effective way of using of my own observations as a social scientist, especially considering that I was not a public servant.28 This suggestion was accepted, on the understanding that the contents of the article would need to be approved by other members of the Task Force.

The first part of the article was accordingly produced, circulated, and then submitted to the Times of PNG on the 17th of September, after the Editor had been advised of its urgency and significance. The weekly Times was chosen in preference to the daily Post-Courier because:

Unfortunately, instead of publishing my article, or even reading it properly, the journalists on the Times decided to treat it as a press release. On the 20th of September, the newspaper carried a front-page story under the headline 'Stack Says Yes, Yer Waim No', in which it was claimed that Minister Stack had already issued the Lak Timber Permit, while Minister Waim had already rejected the Lak Environmental Plan.

These claims were not simply untrue, they also negated the entire purpose of the original article, which had been carefully crafted to avoid any premature comment on the choices which had not yet been made. And, since the Task Force was cited as the source of this false news, the capacity of its bureaucratic members to influence these choices was instantly reduced.

On the day following the publication of this story, the Task Force met again, and decided that the only way to remedy the situation was to try and ensure that the Times published the original article as soon as possible. This point was duly communicated to the journalists involved. At the end of the following week, when the first part had still not appeared, I completed and submitted the entire piece, and left the country for a period of seven weeks. But when I returned, late in November, the article was still languishing on the spike, while the Times had been publishing other academic features on the price of corned beef and similar momentous issues.

The day of reckoning for Lak was fast approaching. The question now was whether publication of the article would make the slightest difference. I gave it one last shot, but this time asked the Times to describe me as a 'special correspondent', simply to avoid the embarrassment of seeming to be out of touch with the progress of events. But the progress of events moved on, the article still failed to appear, Minister Waim approved the Environmental Plan, and Minister Stack issued the Timber Permit. I then advised the Times that the article was redundant, and should not now be published under any circumstances. On the 3rd and the 10th of January they published the article.

In retrospect, it is hard to say whether the whole idea of trying to develop public awareness in this way had been a mistake, or whether this particular attempt had been the victim of erratic journalistic practices. If the article had been submitted to the Post-Courier, which is certainly a more professional outfit, one might suppose that it would either have been published fairly quickly or not published at all. At the same time, all journalists prefer sensational front-page stories to diplomatic feature articles, whether they get their facts right or not, and the Task Force is in no position to ensure that its own communications to the press, whatever their form, will not be sensationalised. This is a problem in its own right because the Task Force is a semi-official body, whose mandate to seek publicity for its cause is as questionable as the relationship between its government and non-government members. But if we assume that the Task Force has the right and the need to promote some public awareness of its activities, I would still argue that 'newsworthy' attacks on politicians are not always the most effective way of altering their behaviour.

There is no way of knowing whether timely publication of my article would have had the intended impact on the decision-making process. It is perhaps unlikely. Nevertheless, I suggest that the type of 'understanding' approach which I tried to adopt in that article is more likely, in the long run, to promote the type of public awareness which will make it easier for politicians to make the right decisions.

The Fourth Obstacle: Landowners

There is a tendency in some quarters to imagine that indigenous forest-dwelling peoples have an ingrained empathy with their natural environment, and would not countenance the damage or destruction of their habitat unless they were obliged to do so by the greater power of individuals or social groups who lack this special understanding. This particular law of nature does not apply in Papua New Guinea.

Those who think it does have possibly been misled by the populist form of political debate in PNG, where everyone falls over themselves to champion the 'grassroots' in their endlessly heroic struggle to secure justice from whichever bunch of self-serving 'elites' happens to be running the government of the day. From this point of view, the fate of the forests hangs in the balance of a struggle between a corrupt cabal of contractors and politicians, on the one side, and on the other side the vast mass of local landowners who, in their innocence or naivety, are continually cheated of their natural inheritance. In that case, the economics of conservation boil down to the cost of mounting landowner awareness campaigns.

There are a number of salient facts which do not square with this conception of the matter:

When Minister Stack complains about the queues of 'landowners and politicians' outside his office door, he is not engaging in a piece of fanciful rhetoric.29 It may well be true that their visits to the capital are funded by the logging contractors who lurk in the nooks and crannies of nearby hotels. The less obvious, but no less important, truth is that these queues are not made up of two separate categories of people. They are made up of people who are both landowners and politicians, who are not unrepresentative of the wider populace, and whose concern for the environment bears no comparison with the contents of their pockets.

This is not to deny that there have been instances of conflict between landowner groups and logging companies, in which 'politicians' are often the favourite target of abuse, and environmental damage is one of the favourite pretexts for complaint. Recent battles between Gogol-Naru landowners and the Jant company in Madang Province are a notable example. Nor can one deny the mountain of evidence which Judge Barnett assembled to demonstrate that many local landowners have been systematically 'ripped off' by the corrupt association of their so-called leaders with the loggers. However, the connection between these phenomena is not as simple as it may appear.

The paradox is that, generally speaking, landowner resistance to logging projects has been very limited when compared to the protests raised against actual or proposed mining projects, where the economic benefits to landowners are undoubtedly far greater, and it is not at all obvious that there is any corresponding increase in the negative environmental impact.

There are several ways of explaining this paradox. For example, it may be argued that:

But, in view of the points already made in this section, there is another group of explanations which may carry more weight, and which do not bode so well for the objectives of the Task Force:

Education alone is most unlikely to compensate for such a mixture of material motives. What this means, very simply, is that the Task Force (and the NFAP) will not get very far with forest conservation unless it counters one material incentive with another.

The international community has recognised this fact by conceding the need to supplement 'landowner awareness' with 'benefit packages'. The problem now is to work out the correct rate of exchange between these two commodities. The Task Force has hardly begun to address this problem, but even from its limited encounters with the villagers of Milne Bay and New Ireland, one may observe some reasons why this task will not be straightforward:

In view of the amount of hot air generated by this aspect of its terms of reference (Appendix 4), it is hard to say how far the Task Force will be able (or allowed) to proceed with the design of these 'benefit packages'. But whatever effort it takes to make them presentable to 'the government' may also may also have the unintended effect of making them less acceptable to 'the landowners'.

The Lessons of Year One

At the time of writing, one year after the meeting of the Round Table which gave rise to the existence of the Task Force, there are several indications that this project has been granted a new lease of life:

These signs of internal renovation have been accompanied by some positive developments in the political and bureaucratic environment of the Task Force:

It is therefore an opportune moment to consider what lessons may be learnt from the experiences of the Task Force as the would-be spearhead of the conservation programme within the NFAP, and what steps might now be taken to ensure that its time and money are more productively spent.

Obstacle Avoidance Strategies

How can the Task Force avoid the repetition of its more unfortunate encounters with the routine practices of politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, and how should it avoid those features of landowning communities and landowner attitudes which are almost bound to defeat its objectives? The Task Force cannot make its social environment disappear by waving a magic ebony wand; but it can perhaps learn to avoid those parts of its social environment which resemble a swamp.

There is no element of surprise in the discovery that PNG government ministers are inconsistent and unreliable in the exercise of their portfolios, or that political decisions have no discernible basis in the 'policies' or 'parties' which pretend to inhabit the PNG political system. It may be an interesting exercise to document the brief history of Minister Stack's 'moratorium', as I have done in this paper, but the Task Force should not waste more time in futile attempts to defend this strange creature from annihilation. There may be more mileage in attempts to ensure that the Environment Minister makes full use of his power under the Environmental Planning Act, but experience has shown that this minister (like his department) can rarely do more, and often does less, than beat a tactical retreat from the encompassing demands for 'development'. In this context, the Task Force should acknowledge a distinction between the routine business of delaying and qualifying the approval of EPs for logging projects and those particular cases, or particular moments, in which the Minister can be persuaded that his own political career will be promoted if he makes a public fuss. This means that the Task Force needs to develop a strategic sense of its own priorities, so that these windows of opportunity can be anticipated and exploited with the maximum effectiveness.

The final approval of the Task Force project proposal may signify the removal of one major bureaucratic obstacle to its work. But this should not give rise to a premature sense of elation. The Task Force has been left with an administrative structure which contains a public servant consuming funds and facilities allocated to an NGO, which is surely a recipe for confusion. The fact that its budget includes allocations to 'consultants' and 'local employees' may not mean that this money can be spent without the usual battle between the relevant line department (in this case DEC) and the Department of Personnel Management, nor can it be assumed that DEC knows how to win these battles.32 And even if victory is achieved on this front, there is still a pressing need to draw some line between the specialised activities of consultants and employees and the routine practices of those Task Force members who are public servants.

What lesson can be learnt from the failure of my personal attempt to promote public awareness of the Task Force through the pages of the local newspapers (Section 3.3 above)? DEC officials seem to have drawn the conclusion that newspapers should be avoided altogether. No press releases should be issued; no feature articles should be written. It is understandable that public servants should take this attitude. But if we deny ourselves these avenues of publicity, is public awareness of Task Force activites to be promoted by meetings alone, and if so, meetings with whom? It is true that the latest Task Force budget includes an allocation of K50,000 over two years to something called 'photographic and video' (awareness program). But, to the best of my knowledge, there has not been any proper discussion of the contribution which these visual images are intended to make to the achievement of our aims. If public servants have good reason to regard publicity as an obstacle to their own endeavours, the non-government members of the Task Force should perhaps take it upon themselves to devise and implement a programme of public awareness which makes optimum use of all available media.

Landowners, of course, are an unavoidable 'obstacle' to the achievement of our aims. But, as previously indicated, some landowners are more of an obstacle than others. What the Task Force presently lacks is a way of deciding which landowners are an obstacle to be avoided, and which landowners are an obstacle to be confronted. The reason for this is that the Task Force has not yet found a way of incorporating landowner attitudes into its definition of a 'priority forest area'.

Prioritising Conservation Areas

The Task Force has still not developed a clear set of criteria for deciding which areas are 'priority forest areas' or for comparing the relative priority of one area with another. It was only at its latest meeting, on the 18th of March, that Task Force members finally confronted the question of why Woodlark Island and the Lak TRP had been the focus of their attention for so many months, and different members gave different answers in respect of each area.

It is true that Southern New Ireland (including Lak) was granted a very high priority by the resolution which established the Task Force (Appendix 3). There were two clear reasons for this:

The immediacy of this threat has since been demonstrated by the issue of the Lak Timber Permit. But, now that the TP has been granted, we are left with two vital questions:

Of course, the granting of the TP does not have the effect of instantly wiping out the conservation value of the whole area, because one logging company can only cause a certain amount of damage in any one year, the Lak EP has only received conditional approval for a period of two years, and logging operations in the TRP have not yet started, apparently because of continuing factional disputes within the landowning community. On the other hand, this creates a situation in which the Task Force will find it very difficult to arrange 'benefit packages' which are not perceived as forms of retribution against those villages, like Matkamlagir and Morukon, whose land is due to be logged in the next two years.

Unlike the Lak TRP, Woodlark Island was not recommended as a potential World Heritage area in the World Bank report. It was not even included in any of the 27 proposed conservation areas. Since these 27 areas are only vaguely defined and described in the World Bank report (Appendix 2), their listing does not have to be regarded as holy writ. But Woodlark seems to have been granted its priority status as a result of the idiosyncratic interest of a single individual in a particular species of cuscus (Phalanger orientalis lullulae), which happened to coincide with a brief public debate over the merits of allowing the export of ebony 'flitches' from the island.33 The cuscus and the ebony both figure in the answers which Task Force members gave to the question 'Why conserve Woodlark?' at their last meeting, but the tourist potential of the island and the positive attitudes of the islanders have evidently underlined its priority. It may also be argued that the Task Force is now committed to maintaining an interest in the area by virtue of the hopes and expectations raised by its initial visit.

In the course of our very expensive expedition to New Ireland, Task Force members visited a number of areas apart from the Lak TRP, but the nature of our interest in these areas has not been clarified. The Lelet Plateau, for example, received some scant attention: it is included in the list of 27 areas, and is also included in the Central New Ireland TRP, for which a Timber Permit was granted at the start of this year, but no-one has so far suggested that it is a priority area, presumably because it is inaccessible to the loggers. The Umbukul TRP was the object of rather more attention, despite its exclusion from the list of 27 areas, apparently because the landowning community was divided on the subject of logging, and the grant of a Timber Permit would have been a breach of the national moratorium. In this case, the role of the Task Force was presumably to give moral support to the local opponents of logging, and this was not meant to foreshadow a more permanent interest in the area. It may also be argued that the Task Force should sustain a general interest in forestry and conservation issues throughout New Ireland, because of the extent to which the forests and the politics of this particular province have already been degraded by dubious logging contractors (see Filer, this volume).

In view of its limited resources, and the limited period of time for which it is expected to operate, there is an obvious risk that the Task Force may cast its net too widely, and in this way dilute its chances of achieving significant results in any one area. On the other hand, in view of the commitments already made to Woodlark and Lak, there is also a risk that these will prove to be the only significant experiments which the Task Force conducts. In either case, there is an obvious need to reflect more carefully on the criteria which are being used to assess the relative priority of different areas.

To judge by the record of Task Force discussions to date, there are four such criteria in use:

The original mandate of the Task Force focusses on the first two criteria. Lak is the top priority because it has unusual conservation value and is immediately threatened by logging operations. The trouble is that landowner attitudes in Lak are not conducive to the conservation of the area precisely because there is no previous experience of logging, only a great expectation of it, and this in turn reduces the current potential for alternative forms of development in the area. This is not a paradox; it represents a normal and predictable relationship between the criteria in our list. How then do we 'trade off' the weight of one criterion against another when deciding the amount of time and effort to devote to any given area?34 The Task Force cannot escape the task of answering this question.

The Allocation of Tasks

My criticism of past Task Force operations is that the allocation of tasks has largely been made on an ad hoc basis, without due consideration of the way that different contributions relate to each other. We cannot proceed on the assumption that our common aims will be achieved if each member simply 'does his own thing' when he has the time and inclination to do it. It is time to construct some type of flow chart showing the relationship which is supposed to exist between our various contributions, and formulate the terms of reference for different tasks in such a way as to ensure that this relationship is activated.

Leaving aside the routine work of Task Force administration, most of which should now become the province of our full-time Executive Officer, our contributions are of three main types:

Hitherto we have spent too much of our time on discussions which have not resulted in clear decisions, or in productive communications with other agencies, because we have not organised a coherent series of investigations that would yield the basis for such decisions.

To rectify this deficiency, I now suggest a procedure for dealing with 'priority forest areas', in which a succession of relevant decisions alternates with a series of specialised activities which are the outcome of the last decision and provide the input to the next.

The first decision is to declare that a particular area is enough of a 'priority' to warrant further investigation. The inputs to this decision should include:

This first decision should be understood as a provisional decision, in the sense that it does not commit the Task Force to assign any particular degree of priority to the area in question, and does not warrant the discussion of 'benefit packages' with local landowners.

Two fieldwork exercises should follow from this initial decision:

These two exercises do not have to be carried out simultaneously, because they clearly involve very different forms of data collection, and it might even be advisable to insist on their separation in order to maintain a low profile.

I am not in a position to say what resources are required for the first type of fieldwork, but the second should be undertaken by a single expert in rapid rural appraisal, accompanied by no more than one government official, whose time in the field would be determined by the size and distribution of the target population. The terms of reference for this exercise would clearly prohibit the investigator from giving any undertakings to local landowners on behalf of the Task Force or any government agency. It might be difficult to avoid all mention of the Task Force, but at this stage the Task Force should be represented only as an organisation which is interested in promoting the idea of conservation.

Although I have suggested that a single expert should be able to produce the socio-economic appraisal of a target area, it is too much to expect this expert to produce a sensible discussion of the local feasibility of those 'alternative developments' which might be wrapped up in a 'benefit package' without the provision of an additional input, which might best be described as a review of potential package ingredients, or alternative development strategies. It is all very well to promote the self-evident merits of walkabout sawmilling, butterfly farming, eco-tourism, and so forth, but it is very difficult to assess the viability of such schemes within a particular location if there is no way of gaining ready access to a review of the successes and failures of such schemes in other places, especially places in PNG. Ideally, this review should be incorporated into the inventory, whose production should then be regarded as another specialised Task Force activity.

Initial fieldwork in the target area should result in the production of two written reports which provide the basis upon which the Task Force makes its second decision with regard to that area. The subject of this second decision should be the degree of 'priority' which the Task Force will henceforth assign to this area, as measured by the amount of additional resources to be spent on it.

If this amount is anything much greater than zero, this second decision would be followed by two further activities:

In practice, there would obviously be more of an overlap between these two activities than there was between the two initial forms of fieldwork in the area. However, while the first activity apparently falls within the routine competence of public servants already participating in the Task Force, the second is likely to require some more specialised input than they can provide.

In the same way that a review of potential package ingredients is required as a general input to the initial socio-economic appraisal of a target area, it can be argued that another general input is required at this second stage of activity, which is a review of options for organising landowners to receive these packages. It cannot be assumed that landowners will spontaneously organise themselves around the declaration of a conservation area in a manner which will make them properly accountable for the receipt of any material incentives and discourage factional disputes over the distribution of those in incentives. Indeed, there is a wealth of evidence from a variety of economic sectors to indicate that the distribution of revenues (such as royalties) arising from customary ownership of a natural resource has always been a problem in PNG, and has given rise to a remarkable variety of solutions, some of which have been notably more successful than others.35

It is difficult to be more specific about the manner in which these second-stage negotiations and investigations should proceed until the Task Force has clarified the limits of its own capacity to design the 'packages' and the NGOs have clarified the nature and extent of their ability to deliver them, with or without the support of relevant government agencies. Until these outstanding questions are resolved, it is equally difficult to describe the timing and content of any third decision which the Task Force may need to make about the target area. But if we manage to get to the point where a third decision has to be made, we shall already have made a great deal of progress.

The Allocation of Funds

The Task Force activities described in the last section as 'specialised' activities are those which Task Force members cannot be expected to undertake on an amateur basis or (in the case of public servants) as part of their routine bureaucratic duties. They should therefore be treated as potential claims on the K60,000 per annum which is dedicated to 'consultancies' in the latest Task Force budget. But, given the range of these competing claims, the Task Force will need to exercise great care in the spending of this limited amount of money, and should ideally seek alternative sources of funding for those specialised inputs which are not directly related to particular target areas.

Much of the work of mapping the 27 recommended conservation areas has already been undertaken by UPNG staff and students. The costs of this exercise (about K5,000 to date) have partly been covered by a grant from Conservation International, while the rest has been borne by the University itself. The next step is to integrate these 'conservation maps' with maps of TRP boundaries and the 'forest working plans' of relevant Timber Permit areas at a national, provincial and local level. The Task Force has to decide whether to intervene in this process, by allocating or securing funds for its continuation, or to wait for other agencies to do the necessary work on their own initative or under the auspices of another NFAP project.

A similar decision has to be made in respect of the other two general inputs which I have described as essential ingredients of Task Force deliberations:

Both of these may be treated as 'one-off' consultancies, whose output may then be updated or revised in the light of experience in particular target areas, but the first probably requires the active involvement of NANGO as an organisation, and the nature of this involvement needs to be specified with some care.

If these general inputs could be organised and funded outside of the current Task Force budget, then the funds already earmarked for 'consultancies' could be directed at the three types of investigation required for each 'priority area':

In these cases, government regulations might (for once) work to the advantage of the Task Force, by forcing it to economise. These regulations specify that government agencies cannot contract consultants for sums of more than K5,000 without referring the matter to the Consultancy Steering Committee (convened by the Department of Personnel Management), with an explanation of why it should not be put out to tender. This is a complicated process, and one which has seemingly defeated the best brains in DEC, but the Task Force might be well advised to impose its own limit of K5,000 of any one investigation of any one target area, even if the funding is not constrained by these particular regulations.36

If Task Force consultancy funds were spent in this way, then a maximum of K15,000 would spent on special investigations in any one area, and the Task Force should be able to 'cover' five or six such areas in the space of a single year.37 To judge by the experiences of the first year, this would probably be the limit of its organisational capacity, even with the presence of a full-time Executive Officer.

Consultants working in this way would only consume a small proportion of the funds (K100,000 per annum) which the Task Force has budgetted for 'travel and accommodation'. From this one might infer that the remainder of the travel funds (perhaps K80,000) would be spent in the course of 'negotiations' between Task Force members, local landowners and government agencies, as indeed they have been over the past year. If this means that our bureaucratic members are going to spend a lot of time in chartered aircraft and expensive hotels, one can only ask that their motions do not interfere with the conduct of those specialised activities which have so far been neglected.

Picking up the Pieces

The fact remains that the Task Force has involved itself with the people of Woodlark and Lak in a manner which very obviously fails to accord with the model presented in the last two sections. This involvement has consisted almost entirely of 'negotiations', accompanied by a few haphazard investigations, and the result, as noted at several Task Force meetings, is that local people's expectations have been raised on a very questionable basis - like a castle built on sand. It would not be advisable to repeat this exercise in other areas. But can the Task Force 'make amends' for its previously unsystematic approach to Woodlark and Lak? If we decide to continue our involvement with both of these areas, I can only suggest that the amendment would be better late than never.


Barnett, T.E., 1989. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Aspects of the Forest Industry (20 volumes). Boroko.

Brunton, B.D., 1990. 'Critique of the World Bank's Tropical Forestry Action Plan Review for Papua New Guinea.' Boroko: Law Reform Commission (Working Paper 26).

Filer, C., 1990. 'The Eyes of the World Are on Lak.' Times of PNG 3-10/1/91. Reprinted in this volume.

Matrus, K., 1990. 'TFAP New Ireland Forests Action Plan Taskforce Visit Report: Small Scale Timber Industry.' Mimeo.

Namaliu, R.L., 1990. 'Opening Address by the Prime Minister...for the Tropical Forest Action Plan Round Table Conference.' Mimeo.

New Guinea Island Campaign Group et al., 1990. 'The World Bank Tropical Forestry Action Plan for Papua New Guinea: A Critique.' Mimeo.

Papua New Guinea, Department of Forests, 1989. 'The Medium Term Development Strategy for the Forestry Sub-Sector 1990-1994.' Hohola.

Papua New Guinea, Department of Forests, 1990. 'Project Proposals for the Tropical Forestry Sector Action Program (TFAP).' Hohola.

Pearce, F., 1990. 'High Stakes in the Rainforest.' The Guardian (UK) 19/10/90.

Sakulas, H., 1990a. 'Proposed Woodlark World Heritage Area.' Mimeo.

Sakulas, H., 1990b. 'Task Force on Conservation and World Heritage Areas: Lak Area Southern New Ireland Trip.' Mimeo.

Vosseler, D., 1990. 'NGO Report on the Task Force Mission to Woodlark Island.' Mimeo.

Winterbottom, R., 1990. Taking Stock: The Tropical Forestry Action Plan After Five Years. Washington DC: World Resources Institute.

Woodlark Island Development Corporation, 1990. Environmental Plan for Timber Harvesting on Woodlark Island.

World Bank, 1990. Papua New Guinea, The Forestry Sector: A Tropical Forestry Action Plan Review (2 volumes). Washington DC.

Young, M.W., 1990. 'TFAP Task Force Visit to Woodlark Island, 14-18 June 1990: Sociological Report.' Mimeo. Reprinted this volume.

Appendix 1: task force participants 1990-91

This list only includes those Members (M) and Alternate Members (A) who actually attended Task Force meetings during its first year of existence and those individuals who took part in the expeditions to Woodlark (W) and New Ireland (N).


Stephen BABO (A) Nature Conservation Division, DEC

Paul BARKER (M) Economic Adviser, PMD

Lafcadio CORTESI (W) Greenpeace

Phillie DAUR (W) Biology Dept, UPNG

John DOUGLAS (M) Environment Division, DEC

Colin FILER (AN) Dept of Anthropology & Sociology, UPNG

Philip HUGHES (M) Environmental Sciences Programme, UPNG

Guy KULA (MN) Nature Conservation Division, DEC

Tau LEGAI (N) First Take Productions Pty

Debon LOGO (N) Division of Forests, Dept of New Ireland Province

Johnson MANTU (MWN) Task Force Unit, DOF

Anna MARIKAWA (M) Social Affairs Division, DFP

Kamung MATRUS (AN) Village Development Trust

Paul MILLIN (MN) Dept of Surveying & Land Studies, PNG University of Technology

Titi NAGARI (MN) Environmental Planning & Assessment Section, DEC

Gerard NATERA (MN) Bureau of Water Resources, DEC

Mike PATCHETT (MW) Environment Division, DEC

Larry QUEEN (A) Geological Survey, DME

Vaughan REDFERN (M) Department of Agriculture & Livestock

Elvit REMAS (N) Division of Forests, Dept of New Ireland Province

Dale RUTSTEIN (N) First Take Productions Pty

Harry SAKULAS (MWN) Wau Ecology Institute

Lester SERE (M) Nature Conservation Division, DEC

Kevin VANG (W) Legal Adviser, DEC

David VOSSELER (MW) Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific

Adam WANGU (N) Geological Survey, DME

Kembi WATOKA (M) Environmental Division, DEC

Richard WEST (MN) Project Coordination Branch, DME

Michael YOUNG (W) Dept of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU

Appendix 2: proposed new conservation areas

The following list of areas was contained as Annex 6 in Volume 2 of the World Bank's Tropical Forestry Action Plan Review for PNG. It has also been reproduced as an Appendix to the project description for the Task Force, a version of which is attached here as Appendix 4. The areas listed are an addition to the total of approximately 700,000 hectares which is already occupied by National Parks and Wildlife Management Areas, and the combination is intended to provide a better coverage of the range of botanical and zoological diversity in PNG. It is estimated that this combination represents 15-20% of PNG's 46 million hectares of land.

(1) On the Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province, a World Heritage Area is proposed. It should include the summit areas of Mt. Bangeba (limestone), the terraces of the Huon Peninsula, and a broad area to its southern coast. This area includes ranges of Bird of Paradise species, especially Astrapia rothschildi and Paradisaea guilielmi, both of which are endemic to the Huon Peninsula. Plant communities in forests of this area are of particular interest. Dahl (1986:28) has mentioned this area as a proposed National Park.

(2) At Morobe coast and Mt. Missim a combined Marine and Terrestrial Reserve is proposed. The coastal area is important with an extreme beauty of its landscape, the inland areas having unique forests on ultrabasic parent material. The reserve needs to extend along the ranges to include Mt. Missim so as to protect diverse plant habitats and a rich bird and insect fauna.

(3) At the Bismarck Falls a World Heritage Area of extreme conservation and scientific interest is proposed, sharing itself into the Madang, Eastern Highlands and Chimbu Provinces. It should include the area from the Ramu to the summit regions of Mt. Otto and Mt. Wilhelm and is to extend to the Gahavisuka Provincial Park NE of Goroka. The area would need to be fragmented in southern sections from Bundi to Gembogl and to exclude the chromite deposits of ultrabasics near the Ramu. Areas of Lauterbachia (Monimiaceae) should be included since they represent an endemic genus only known from this region. There are many other endemic plants and a very rich bird life. The park would range from 300m to the summit of Mt. Wilhelm at 4,000m.

(4) The Okapa Araucaria stands in the Eastern Highlands Province should be protected since it belongs to the lower montane zone, which is the most threatened one in the country. The proposed area has a larger natural stand of Araucaria which at the same time is the habitat of PNG's National Emblem, the Paradisaea raggiana.

(5) A National Park at Mt. Giluwe in the Southern Highlands Province is proposed, including a mountain region of considerable beauty and exceptional botanical interest. Several high altitude species of Bird of Paradise are common here. The area also includes the most extensive high altitude past bogs in PNG with their distinctive flora, i.e. mat forming Rhododendrons and many high altitude plants of specific conservation interest. The Park should be extended to include areas of forest dominated by Nothofagus grandis and N.pollei, locally known as 'Karapeh karapeh' and 'Karapah pu', and areas dominated by celery top pine Phyllocladus hyppophyllus. The area is very rich in plant and animal species, including an unnamed giant Water Rat and six other Rat species. It also supports one of the few remaining Wild Dog populations.

(6) At Tari Gap in the Southern Highlands Province a Park could be established covering a mid to high altitude area. It is easily accessible as the road from Mendi to Tari passes through subalpine forest at an altitude of about 3,000m. The area which is very diverse botanically and zoologically should include the Doma Peak with the moutains of Mt. Ne and Amuba, two very old volcanic peaks. A diverse high altitude bird fauna and scientifically interesting forests with majestic Nothofagus stands and areas with Astrapia meyeri would be protected in the proposed Park.

(7) At Mt. Bosavi a protected area is proposed, occupying and sharing areas of the Southern [Highlands], Western and Gulf Provinces. The mountain is an isolated volcano south of the Central Divide. The area has locally endemic plant species, e.g. the only known site of an endemic Gnetum species. There are also many bird species. The area should extend down to lowland forest to preserve areas dominated by Vatica massak and other lowland species typical for this region.

(8) At Galley Reach in the Central Province, a Reserve for the Mangrove habitat is proposed. The region is of great scientific interest because of its diverse mangrove communities. The area is accessible from Port Moresby and is ideally suited for study purposes, for mangrove walkways, etc. Many coastal bird species occur in the area.

(9) At Wassi-Kussa in the Western Province, a Park is proposed to preserve the unique flora and fauna of southern PNG with its close relationships to the flora of Cape York Peninsula. The most diverse savannah areas are to be found in this region. They are still poorly known botanically despite the collection made by Brass.

(10) The Lake Mawiumbu in Western Province should be protected as an important region in the Fly River basin. The lake contains a great variety of water plants including four endemic species of Blyxa. Osborne (pers.comm.) states that this is the most important lake system of the basin due to its diversity of water plants and the very rich bird fauna of the region. It is more important than Lake Kutubu (originally listed as a proposed reserve) even though Lake Kitubu has endemic fresh water species. Still Lake Kutubu should be declared as a site of scientific interest as well as a National Sanctuary because of its extreme beauty. It might be threatened through the discovery oil.

(11) The Menyamya Aseki - Mt. Amungwiwa area in Morobe Province should be protected since botanically it is very diverse though yet poorly known. Mt. Amungwiwa is one of the two known sites for the endemic genus Piora (Compositae) which is represented by only a single species, and only known in PNG. Many other plant and animal species of scientific interest occur in this large area of still undisturbed forest.

(12) In the Owen Stanley Mountains a National Park shared between several Provinces (Central, Oro and Milne Bay) should be established. It should include the high altitude areas of the Owen Stanley Ranges, in particular Mts. Albert Edward, Tafa, Scratchley, Obree, Victory (local name: Kerorova), Dayman, and Suckling. The area is of exceptional biological interest with a great variety of plant and animal species. For example the Salvadori's Teal, Anas walyiyensis, occurs in this region. Seven giant Water Rats including a yet undescribed species from the high altitude grasslands of Mt. Albert Edward have been recorded. At Collingwood Bay the Northern Crown Pigeon, Goura victoria, and also the Southern species, G.scheepmakarii, has been recorded in groups up to 15. Mt. Victory has one of the strongest populations of Forest Wallabies of the whole country. The Musa River area has also Forest Wallabies and Northern Crown Pigeons; it is furthermore of interest because of its natural stands of Hoop and Klinkii pine trees. In conclusion there are strong reasons to propose the Owen Stanley Ranges for World Heritage Area listing.

(13) On the Islands of Goodenough, Normanby, and Fergusson in Milne Bay Province all areas over 700 to 1,000m a.s.l. should be protected. They are of outstanding scientific interest with many plants represented by local species at lower altitudes than on the mainland which is due to the Massenergebung effect. There is also a very diverse bird fauna.

(14) At Manus Province, several smaller and mostly uninhabited islands should be declared as Reserves. On the main Manus Island an area from Mt. Dremsel to the south coast should also be protected so as to preserve the very interesting flora and fauna of this area.

(15) In the Adelbert Ranges in Madang Province an area should be set aside to protect the flora and fauna of this region, preferably from the central mountains to the northern coast.

(16) In the Prince Alexander Ranges, East Sepik Province, a Park should be established to protect the mountain region. The area is of great scientific interest though yet very little explored.

(17) The Torricelli Mountains in West Sepik Province should be protected as an extensive Park. It should include the limestone regions and extend to the north coast where limestone communities are adjacent to coastal vegetation. The area includes the locally endemic, monotypic species Rheopteris cheesmannii. This genus is known from only two collections in this mountain block, both found on limestone, whereas the Cheesmann collection was picked up from a log in the river (not on site). Petaurus abidi is a glider apparently found only in this area. Several water rat species have been recorded including Hydromys hussoni. The area has recently drawn conservation attention through the possible discovery of a new Tree Kangaroo species.

(18) The Tower Limestones in Gulf Province should be protected as an area of extreme scientific interest and diversity. The individual towers are over 200 to 400m tall and each support an isolated capping of rainforest. Possibly the Darai Hills south-east of Mt. Bosavi National Park should be included and the whole area be treated as part of the Mt. Bosavi National Park.

(19) The Hunstein Mountains in East Sepik Province represent a biologically very diverse area which requires protection as a Reserve. No collection has been made here since the the German expedition in 1912, but botanical diversity is evident. The area is the type locality for Araucaria hunsteinii. It includes extensive stands of the endemic Kauri species (Agathis labillardieri) which deserve protection. There is fear that the area might be logged to extract the Kauri, hence it is an important area for protection as soon as possible.

(20) The Whiteman Ranges in West New Britain represent an extensive area of rainforest on limestone and mixed volcanic rocks. It should be protected because of its scenic beauty and scientific importance. The flora is still poorly known but very diverse. There is a high degree of avian endemism with at least 23 species. Endemism is particularly important in high altitude birds.

(21) The Lake Dakataua in West New Britain is of exceptional scenic beauty and scientific interest. The area has potential for a major tourist attraction. Strong efforts should be made urgently to stop the proposed replacement of the forest by oil palm plantations. Forests should be managed in a way to maintain their ecosystem and in coexistence with a potential tourist industry development. The Lake has a saltwater crocodile population, an abundant bird life, and a myriad of insects, but interestingly no fish; thus represents a unique type of ecosystem.

(22) The Nakanai Plateau in East New Britain is a region of important mid-montane forest dominated by two species of Nothofagus. Forest is very diverse and comprises some local endemic species of Asplenium. The area deserves protection because of its scientific interest.

(23) In Southern New Ireland a World Heritage Area is proposed because of its exceptional scenic beauty and extreme scientific interest. The area should include the rift valley in the limestone and the mountain ranges to the north and south of it. There is a great potential for further scientific exploration.

(24) The Lelet Plateau on New Ireland (Central) deserves protection because of its outstanding botanical diversity. Midmontane forest is particularly well developed.

(25) The Mt. Takuan in North Solomons Province is an area of great diversity, especially in respect to its flora. It includes many Pacific elements and should be preserved. Adequate 'reserves' should also be established to protect the natural stands of Terminalia brassii in Bougainville. The mountain avifouna of the North Solomons apparently shows a high level of endemism.

(26) The Louisiade National Marine and Terrestrial Park in Milne Bay Province is proposed for World Heritage listing. Apart from a major marine park which should be established, but which is not further considered here because the present topic is the forest environment, a terrestrial park is proposed mainly because of many locally endemic species in the land based flora. Among them are several endemic species of Hopea (Dipterocarpaceae) and the Ebony (Diospyros Ebenaceae). In addition there are species with commercial potential for the establishment of forest plantations.

(27) The Star Mountains in West Sepik and Western Province deserve protection as an important area for highland species. Many of them are in common with Irian Jaya. The occurrence of Salvadori's Teal has also been reported from this area.


This is the penultimate draft of the 'Report of the Working Group on World Heritage Areas and Conservation Areas'. Strangely enough, I have not yet been able to locate a copy of the final draft anywhere in Port Moresby.

The Working Group has the following recommendations to make for the consideration and, if thought fit, approval of the full conference for transmittal to the Government of PNG.

(1) That the meeting strongly supports the PNG Government's policy objective of developing a National Conservation Strategy which will set aside and protect a representative system of conservation areas throughout PNG, with the most outstanding areas to be nominated as World heritage Areas.

(2) That the PNG Government should accede as a State Party to the World heritage Convention and submit an indicative list of sites as soon as possible.

(3) That the proposed areas recommended in the World Bank Report, Appendix 6, be recognized as areas of high conservation importance, and this list be refined and added to in the light of further research and resource inventory.

(4) That the PNG Government implement the existing environment planning legislation to protect and manage the listed areas, securing them from commercial forestry, agriculture or other development projects over which it has control; and that the PNG Government review the situation of those timber operations lacking an environmental plan, and develop a strategy for remedial measures.

(5) That there is an immediate need to recognize the conservation importance and environmental planning needs for the following high priority areas from the World Bank list: Bismarck Range; Owen Stanley Range; Southern New Ireland; Prince Alexander Range.

(6) That it be noted that the successful implementation of the PNG National Conservation System and World Heritage Programme will be crucially dependent on two factors:

(a) The commitment of the Government of PNG to funding, developing and protecting the system.

(b) The financial support of the international donor community, which is particularly needed for funding the benefit packages needed to secure landowner consent and commitment to conservation areas on their land.

(7) That the meeting endorse the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation's proposal for a PNG Conservation Authority and Trust Fund, and ask for the details of these proposals to be clarified as soon as possible.

(8) That there is a need for urgency in providing conservation planning advice initially on high priority areas, and to carry out preparatory technical work for the proposed PNG National Conservation System; and that for these purposes, a Task Force supported by a technical adviser should be established and funded to commence work by mid-May. Membership of the Task Force should include representatives of:

The Task Force should urgently provide maps of the listed areas, identify areas of conflict between conservation and development projects, and provide advice to the Minister of Environment and Conservation on appropriate conservation strategies, development regulation, and priority needs. An estimate of the external assistance needs and short term action plan is US$100,000, preferably to be available by June 1990.


This is the text of the Task Force project description which was first constructed in April 1990, shortly after the Round Table conference, publicised at a press conference held by the Minister for Environment and Conservation on the 15/5/90, and then submitted to the TFAP Steering Committee on 4/9/90. This material was included in a second draft presented to the Steering Committee on 4/10/90, and a final draft approved by the Committee on 4/4/91, but with various amendments designed to meet objections raised by DFP.

Background and Justification

It is widely recognized that the Government has failed to adequately regulate the timber harvesting activities within the extensive forest area of PNG. The report on the Forest Enquiry [sic] and the recent Tropical Forest Action Plan (TFAP) report for PNG by the World Bank identified the problems in the forest sector and recommended remedial action. The TFAP report has been endorsed by the National Executive Council and Government has prepared an action plan to implement the TFAP.

At the recent conference (2-4 April) the government generated support from the international donor community to implement the proposed action programme commencing in 1991. The conference also produced a resolution calling for immediate action on possible conservation and World Heritage Areas [Appendix 3]. This resolution identified priority areas for environmental management and conservation. Of these areas the Lak TRP, Collingwood Bay and Woodlark Island areas are in immediate threat of unplanned logging. The resolution, which was supported by relevant government representation, calls for the establishment of a Taskforce to provide immediate conservation planning advice to Government and undertake preparatory work on the TFAP.

The proposed multidisciplinary Taskforce requires immediate financial and technical support to enable it to undertake the prescribed tasks, particularly as non-government groups are involved and additional technical and manpower support will be required for committee and field work. The conference resolved that the doner community should support this proposal for urgent implementation by May-June 1990.

The Government must be prepared to offer landowners of proposed conservation areas a benefit package that may comprise social infrastructure, local business development and an annual payment. The benefit package should relate to the agreed land use restrictions and potential revenues foregone by landowners. Both national and international assistance will be required to support the benefit package.

A significant task therefore is to research and secure sources of financial assistance and develop the mechanism to administer the funds.

Taskforce Operations

The Taskforce will comprise representatives from:

- Department of Environment and Conservation (Convener)

- Department of Forests

- Department of Prime Minister and NEC

- Department of Lands and Physical Planning

- Appropriate Provincial Government representatives

- Universities

- NGOs

- Department of Finance and Planning

- Department of Agriculture and Livestock

- Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources

- Department of Minerals and Energy.

The Taskforce will be responsible to:

(1) Prepare maps of listed areas that define areas of high conservation value and existing or potential land based developments.

(2) Identification of aspects of conflict between development and conservation objectives.

(3) Provide recommendations to the Government of PNG through the Minister for Environment and Conservation on appropriate conservation strategies including regulation of development activities.

(4) Undertake research and investigations into the provision of incentive packages to landowners in proposed Conservation Areas and possible funding systems.

(5) Liaise with relevant national government organizations e.g. Tourism Development Corporation and relevant provincial government organizations.

Basically, the Taskforce will address the environmental planning and conservation needs in the identified areas. The Taskforce will utilize additional expertise and assistance from appropriate PNG organizations, landowner groups, and international experts.

It is imperative that the Taskforce act decisively to effectively tackle the priority areas. A cooperative effort between national government, provincial government, landowners and the proposed Permit Holder will be promoted. Where landowners may forego potential revenues due to agreed land use restriction, the Taskforce will recommend appropriate benefit packages for government consideration. Formal landowner acceptance of the conservation strategy and benefits is essential to the successful long term conservation of the areas.

The Taskforce will operate for 2-3 years until the Government has strengthened its capacity to wisely manage the forest resource and products of the TFAP are realized. The Taskforce will address selected forest areas considered to have high conservation value and which are or could soon be under a timber harvesting programme. The critical responsibility of the Taskforce will be to present better alternative uses of our forests that not only protect their natural values but generate revenue to the present and future landowners. The ability of the Taskforce to provide attractive benefit packages will largely depend on financial support from the international community of developed nations. Community infrastructure such as roads and bridges and appropriate business developments that generate a sustainable revenue will be the mainstay of the benefit package. The success of this conservation programme is considered vital to the future welfare of the majority of Papua New Guineans who now reside in our forest.


The following summary is based on the listing of projects produced by DOF for the Round Table Conference in April 1990, which was in turn largely based on the list of suggested projects included as Annex 10 of the World Bank's TFAP Review.

Department of Forests

  1. Immediate Technical Support. K1,172,000 (later reduced to K1,115,000) over 3 years (1990-2). To 'bring experts from a counterpart forestry agency well-experienced in institutional development and project implementation, to work with Government officials on a restructuring for forestry and on design and scheduling of donor agencies inputs, and in collaboration with project design imperatives from those agencies'.
  2. Revenue Study and Corporate Planning. K160,000 over 1 year (1990). To 'provide financial and corporate planning for the [new] Forest Authority and also identify the most appropriate method of determining royalty, export taxes, levies, other direct and indirect charges' and thus 'to charge the investor the most economic rate, and at the same time generate equitable revenue for the country, timber owners (landowners), and the investor'.
  3. Rapid Resource Appraisal. K1,630,000 over 2 years (1991-2). To 'provide a quick estimate of the state of PNG forest resources, for use in production planning under sustainable yield' and 'identify mechanisms for ensuring effective cooperation with landowners, based on registration and development of appropriate structures for negotiation'.
  4. Strengthening the State Purchasing Option. K624,000 over 2 years (1990-1). To make the SPO 'more independent of the GOPNG forestry administration' and place it 'in partnership with an international marketing firm for a fixed period'.
  5. Forest Resource Assessment. K4,230,000 (later reduced to K4,105,000) over 4 years (1992-5). Following on from (3) above, to produce 'volume estimates, growth and yield models, and management scale data to allow design of regional and forest management plans'.
  6. Forest Management and Monitoring Task Forces. K6,502,000 over 4 years (1991-4). To 'develop highly mobile task forces, centrally controlled within the new Forestry Service, to carry out essential planning and field tasks' and to 'undertake applied ecological and socio-economic research to introduce sustainable yield management systems suitable for this country'.
  7. Human Resource Development. K2,000,000 (later increased to K2,795,000) over 5 years (1991-5). To 'provide forestry academic expertise to the existing institutions in PNG', to 'assist with the redevelopment of curricula and courses where necessary', and to 'allow local academics to undertake further training, while maintaining staff numbers at the institutes'.
  8. Forest Industry Development Studies. K480,000 over 2 years (1992-3). To 'select the most favourable sites for development of [three timber-processing] options, and analyse the enconomic and commercial feasibility of investment in them'.
  9. Agroforestry, later renamed as Forestry for Rural Development (joint project with the Department of Agriculture & Livestock). K887,000 over 5 years (1991-5). To evaluate and establish 'selected agroforestry systems' in areas of 'high population pressure, erosion, hazard and social need'.
  10. Ecological, Economic and Social Sustainability of Tropical Rainforest Use (not included in original project listing). K4,836,000 over 5 years (1991-5). To 'promote and support research and development with a view to improving forest management and utilization', to 'support and develop industrial tropical timber reforestation and forest management activities' and 'to encourage the development of national policies aimed at sustainable utilization and conservation of tropical forests and their genetic resources, and at maintaining the ecological balance in the regions concerned'.
Department of Environment & Conservation
  1. Immediate Technical Support. K210,000 over 1 year (1990). To 'engage experts from a counterpart conservation agency who could work with DEC officials ... on detailed design, scheduling of donor agency and government inputs.'
  2. Strengthening Environmental and Conservation Management. K2,270,000 over 4 years (1991-4), later reduced to K1,825,000 over 5 years (1991-5). To 'provide technical assistance and training to DEC, focusing on the Nature Conservation and Environment divisions', to 'review and amend, if appropriate, environmental legislation as it refers to forestry and logging activities', and to develop 'policy guidelines ... to rationalise the environmental monitoring of forestry and logging operations'.
  3. Strategy, Design and Implementation of Conservation and World Heritage Areas. K5,270,000 over 5 years (1991-5). To 'determine a representative system of biodiversity conservation areas', to 'investigate methods of landowner participation and compensation and assist in the establishment of mechanisms and guidelines for public information and landowner awareness', and then (in the second phase of the project) to undertake detailed surveys, define boundaries and 'consult with local landowners in order to prepare a thorough management plan for each area'.
  4. Rehabilitation and Development of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. K8,175,000 over 4 years (1992-5). To review existing parks and sanctuaries, produce appropriate management plans, and investigation the feasibility of establishing new parks and sanctuaries.
  5. Support for Wau Ecology Institute and the National Alliance of Non-Government Organisations. K614,000 over 3 years (1991-3). To support the WEI's ongoing environmental monitoring programme, and to fund the establishment and administration of the NANGO office.
Prime Minister's Department
  1. Landowner Awareness and Support. K1,445,000 over 4 years (1990-3). To 'set up a training and awareness information programme where mbile teams [based at WEI] will be trained to carry out extension activities with landowners and awareness information will be distributed to local community groups for discussion purposes'.

appendix 6: Minister on moratorium

What follows is the text of a letter from the PNG Minister for Forests, Karl Stack, defending himself against the accusation that he and his department had failed to honour his government's moratorium on the issue of new timber permits. The letter was published in the Post-Courier on 2/1/91.

As Minister for Forests, I am very concerned with allegations in an article and the editorial of the Post-Courier on Thursday 22 November, 1990, accusing the Department of Forests and my Ministry of disregarding and eroding the moratorium on allocation of forest resources. The fact of the matter is that my ministry is implementing the moratorium despite political (both provincial and national) and landowner pressure to allow more projects to be developed. Despite daily lobbying and visits by landowners and politicians to the Department of Forests and my ministry, we are strongly honoring the moratorium, and our advice to those visitors has been that until it expires in 1992, the moratorium must stand.

It is true that a Cabinet submission is under preparation to exempt certain projects from the moratorium. These projects are to be substitutes for the projects which had been exempted previously under NEC Decision 98/90 and which are now having problems. The concerned provincial governments and landowners have requested these substitutions, which in my view are appropriate. The total number of projects exempt from the moratorium is still five as per the Cabinet decision. I am witholding the submission pending instructions from the chairman of the NEC.

The Department of Forests is aware of the brief on the moratorium prepared by the Department of Environment and Conservation. The brief was responded to by the Department of Forests point by point on 9th November, 1990, and the overall conclusion is that the brief was full of inaccuracies. I am annoyed that the brief from the Department of Environment and Conservation was never circulated to my Department for checking before it was given to the World Bank officials.

For the information of the public, I am not bound by the Forestry Act to issue a Timber Permit (Projects under TRP) or assent to a 'Dealings' (Project under LFA) prior [sic] to the approval of the Environmental Plan. The submission of the Environmental Plan is a requirement in the Environmental Planning act, Chapter 370, not the Forestry Act. Its implementation, therefore, is the responsibility of the Ministry and Department of Environment and Conservation, not the Department of Forests or my ministry. If environmental authorities are not satisfied with certain Environmental Plan submissions, it is their responsibility to act on those submissions. In the timber permit, it is a condition for the permit holder to comply at all times with the provision in the Environmental Planning Act.

There is nothing wrong with the Inland Pomio Project. The project was advertised and concluded long before the imposition of the moratorium. To accommodate the wishes of the landowners, the previous timber permit, which was issued before the moratorium, was surrended and a new one re-issued to a landowner company acceptable to the majority of the landowners.

The North Vanapa TRP project is not a new project at all. The Vanapa North Timber Permit was originally issued by the then Forest Minister, Lucas Waka, in 1983. A new timber permit was considered and executed to extend the project life until 2000, which means that the logging operation is being spread for a longer period.

In the case of the Sogeram TRP project, this resource was advertised almost three years ago. It is not a new project, being originally granted to a nationally owned company but after many months of waiting for the project to get off the ground, it was concluded that the company does not have sufficient finance to undertake the project. Due to the wishes of the landowners, who are very keen to have the project off the ground, the project was renegotiated and allocated to Madang Timbers (formerly Wewak Timbers), an existing operator in Madang.

In issuing permits for the above projects, I have not therefore breached the moratorium.

The Department of Forests and my ministry received a number of communications from the Lamassa landowners urging us to process their project. So far nothing is happening as the landowners are not sure whether to operate the project under TRP or LFA.

The NEC specifically exempted five new projects. They are: Collingwood Bay, Cromwell, Josephstaal, Arawe and April-Salumei.

The following projects do not need exemption as they were either ready for allocation or had been allocated for sometime, are extensions to existing operations or defunct projects being revived:

(1) Buhem-Mongi - Morobe.

(2) East Kikori - Gulf (which has now been substituted from Tauri TRP).

(3) Lak - New Ireland.

(4) Gara-Modewa - Milne Bay.

(5) Inland Pomio - East New Britain.

(6) North Vanapa - Central.

(7) Sogeram - Madang.

(8) Rai Coast - Madang.

I would like to make it clear it was at my own initiative that the moratorium was imposed and it would be ridiculous if I were now to contradict it by allowing more projects than the ones mentioned above to be exempted.