K30mill in Forestry Arrears collected

The PNG Forest Authority has collected about K30 million outstanding arrears in the last seven months following policy changes, Forests Minister and Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt has revealed.

Minister Schnaubelt said the policy shift in the engagement with the National Forest Service (NFS) staff and management ensure that he signs any Export Permits for round log export upon written advise from the appropriate division within forest first, and based on whether all arrears are up to date and satisfactory.

He said this had made a huge impact in the way the PNGFA collect outstanding royalties and levies today.

“PNGFA through this policy shift I imposed, have collected around K20m of outstanding in just seven months in office.

“The other K10m collected on top of that comes from the enforcement of current permits preventing them from slipping into arrears again since being in office.

“As Minister for Forest, all Export Permits for round logs and sawn/processed timbers that leaves our shores must first be signed by me hence the teamwork practice mentioned.

 “I agree there's more yet to be done and we have identified those areas already and will commence on them when applicable. He said, “For me the election shouldn't be an excuse to neglect my responsibilities as State Minister.”

Minister Schnaubelt also announced that logging companies were now paying their arrears and current ongoing timber permit levies and royalties.

“They are reluctantly paying up but have no choice because of our new policy position of ‘No payments No export permits and No round logs loaded on their vessels’.”

“We are all aware of the systemic corruption and the lack of compliance enforcement at Forest Authority that exist dating back, way before my time these bad practices have been in existence.

The minister said after taking office from February 11, 2020, he has been fighting against these bad practices from within forestry and to some extent externally as well.

 “Since February ’21 I have placed immense pressure on all logging companies to comply with their permit conditions n pay up all outstanding royalties and levies they owed to Forest Authority and landowners.

“These outstanding are dated back to 2014, unfortunately, we don't have proper records beyond that period and most companies have closed up and are no longer operating today.

“This is frustrating to say the least that we cannot hold them to account today but I'll continue exploring those options whilst I focus immediately on preventing current royalties and levies from falling behind.

“I am disliked for the mere fact that now logging companies can feel the presence of PNGFA today compared to yester years and they must now rope in support from former friends in forest to assist them in their attempt to remove me as Minister for Forestry for those glory days to return,” Minister Schnaubelt said.

Press Release