This is according to PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) Forestry Area manager, Jerry Kowin, during a recent visit to the province.
He said that currently, the two major economic activities that put money into the pocket of locals are through agriculture and forestry projects.
“However, agriculture is only practiced in the northern part of the Island, while forestry is almost every part of the island,” said Mr Kowin.
“We have been the largest exporter of round logs for the last 40 to 50 years, and we still are.”
He said in many parts of the province, forestry officers are the only public servants present and their welfare is a concern. Mr Kowin hopes that the PNGFA current restructure and corporate plan would address this.
He added that the provincial office does not have the number of staff required to monitor all 23 timber concessions and projects that are currently active.
“We are down by half and we expect to have at least 43-45 technical staff to monitor all these operations. Currently, we only have 19 staff and we can already tell of the big ask that we are putting on our officers in the field.
“One is monitoring three to four projects by himself and we hope that the restructure in the corporate plan can address this.”
In response to this, PNGFA Managing Director, John Mosoro assured Mr Kowin and officers that the new Forestry bill and the recently launched 10-year Corporate Plan would address these issues.
“The new forestry Bill will be presented before Parliament for endorsement and is currently with the state solicitor who will give what is called a certificate of necessity to allow it to pass through to NEC for approval.”
“There will be a big change that will happen to the PNG forestry industry. The Bill will give more powers to officers to become inspectors to enforce the new forestry act.
“In the corporate plan, there are also plans to increase the number of forestry officers in the country, especially in provinces and districts.”
Meanwhile, Mr Mosoro added that the PNGFA would also be looking at building more housing for officers and increasing their salary and allowances.
While in West New Britain, Mr Kowin also announced plans to commercialise excess land at Dami plantation.
“The land was acquired in 1968 under CAO and was obtained in 2017, together with the lease but no structures have been set. If that is okay with the management, we are willing to put up a proposal.”
He also asked the PNFA for a new office at the station, as the one currently used was built between 1969 and 1970.