The Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL), Central Provincial Administration and relevant government agencies have conducted wide consultation and awareness on the rice project in the Central Province and the project stands to benefit the people of Kairuku-Hiri, says Agriculture Minister, Sir Puka Temu, in response to recent media criticisms alleging landowners being left out and not informed about the project.
Sir Puka said government officers have conducted extensive awareness and consultation with the landowners and communities within the Kairuku-Hiri District and will continue to do so. Sir Puka said he and his brother MPs from the Central Province, including the Kairuku-Hiri MP, had a public meeting with the Aroa people at Pinu village in October last year and witnessed the support publicly expressed by the people.
He said there has been overwhelming support from the people who have attended all public meetings conducted by DAL and its stakeholders at the Bereina station, and the villages of Bereina, Inauaia, Inaui, Agevairu, Pinu, Magabaira and Vanapa. In addition, the Land Mobilisation team, comprising of officers from DAL and Lands Department, has also visited villages in the Gabadi/Aroa, Roro and Mekeo areas. A few villages are yet to be visited, however, there have been positive responses from the majority of villagers who want the project to go ahead.
Sir Puka said in January the team visited the North Mekeo area and spoke to people of Babagogo, Waika, Apanaipi, Piuga, Ameisaka, Inaujina, Egefa, Maipa, Akufa, Ioi and Imouga, who gave overwhelming support.
Sir Puka denied claims that he was treating the landowners as fools, as one letter writer suggested.
Sir Puka stressed that the rice development initiative is a major impact project for the agriculture sector that this country has ever seen and the Kairuku-Hiri district in particular is very fortunate to have this project. When done properly, this project will be highly beneficial to the local people, including those who are criticizing it right now.
“In fact, I am advised that in a day an average of four to five landowners and local villagers visit the Central Province Commercial Rice Project office in Port Moresby to either follow up on their ILGs or to obtain more information about the project,” Sir Puka said.
He stated that so far, the landowners have already registered 44 existing ILGs and 44 new applications with the Central Province Commercial Rice Project (CPCRP) office. Of the existing ILGs, 30 are those that were formerly under the Mekeo hinterland project, with 7 collected and 23 pledged to be handed in soon. Notification has been received of more ILGs to be brought in.
Sir Puka said the awareness and consultation on the project are continuing, together with the Land Mobilisation work which is now at the Land Investigation Reports (LIR) stage. In the meantime, DAL and the National Project Steering Committee progresss the work on the Deed of Agreement that is acceptable for the State before it is signed with the investor.
Sir Puka appealed to landowners and members of the public who have genuine concerns about the rice project to seek information from the CPCRP office at DAL headquarters and not to make misleading and incorrect statements in the media on a project that will not only benefit them but will also have a major impact in their lives.
“I am always available and willing to visit Kairuku-Hiri district to talk about the project with our people and will certainly do so after the DAL and the project team has done its work.”