Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speakers: Charles Toksana, a chief from West Kwaio, Malatia Province; Richard Irosaea, Premier of Malaita Province: Fred Fono, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister of Solomon Islands
GARRETT: Solomon Islands commercial forests are almost logged out but despite that logging continues at such a pace that the country is one of the top 5 suppliers to China.
Most logging occurs in the west, but other provinces have also felt its impact.
On Malaita – Solomon Islands’ most populous province – logging takes place in the South.
Chief Charles Toksana from West Kwaio says landowners sign contracts with logging companies because they are desperate to support their families.
TOKSANA: In my area what I experience is damaging the forest, also our environment is ruined.
GARRETT: And when you say ruined, what does that mean for people in their daily life?
TOKSANA: Their daily life will be – and the future – will cause problems for the future generations.
GARRETT: Has the logging affected your water supply or the way you grow your crops?
TOKSANA: Yes, it has affected our water supply and also the main rivers, top of the rivers and also the streams.
GARRETT: Malaita’s Premier, Richard Irosaea, is also angry about the damage being caused by commercial logging.
IROSAEA: It has destroyed the environment in this area than anything that they earn in terms of economic gains. If you go down there you’ll see that a lot of roads or operations in the areas that are being logged there is no standard of logging that these logging companies comply with. These operations are so free to do their own thing that when you go after they have been through a piece of land you’ll see that they, I mean, if you own the land and you have some concern for your land after they’ve finished with it, it’s something to be sorry about.
GARRETT: Has the province or the communities in the areas that have been logged seen any benefits from loggin?
IROSAEA: It’s the same all over the Solomons and that is no logging operations in the Solomons since logging started here has benefitted any communities or any landowners in the Solomon Islands, and that’s the same here on Malaita. And in every community where logging has been through, some of these communities are worse off than what they were before.
GARRETT: The Premier of Malaita province, Richard Irosaea.
Across the Pacific logging has brought corruption and Solomon Islands is no exception.
Deputy Prime Minister, Fred Fono, agrees that logging is not benefiting landowners.
Mr Fono says vested interests are the biggest obstacle to cleaning up the industry.
FONO: I would very much want to see legislation reform in the logging industry, but the problem as I’ve seen several times is that the government because of some vested interests in logging by some of our members of parliament, let alone ministers, it’s quite difficult for the government to have the political will to drive changes in the logging industry. So that’s basically what has been a stumbling block to legislative reforms that some of us national leaders would like to see in the forestry sector.
GARRETT: Deputy Prime Minister Fred Fono.
Chief Charles Toksana says in his area logging companies have not built schools or clinics or contributed to development in any way.
TOKSANA: They take the logs and go.
GARRETT: What about jobs, did they create jobs with the logging company?
TOKSANA: Yeh, they create some jobs but mainly (when) the contractor came into our areas, they bring in foreign (workers like machine) operators like operating a bulldozer and other things, it’s not helpful because they are bringing them Malaysians and all their expatriates during the logging. So we don’t benefit enough for the (in) employment