Pine planting on native land quizzed

Bua pine landowners attend the consultations at Bua Lomanikoro Village last week. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

PINE landowners in Bua have been advised to exercise their legal rights if they wished to take Fiji Pine Ltd to court for overplanting of pine on native land.

Responding to questions from Bua chief Ratu Ramakutu Nagagavoka on whether the company could be taken to task, iTaukei Land Trust Board assistant general manager Solomone Nata said no one could stop landowners from doing so.

Mr Nata said the recent consultations held in Bua Lomanikoro for pine landowners were aimed at ameliorating the issue and creating a space to address the age-old issue.

Ratu Ramakutu had questioned Mr Nata about how they knew that pine had been overplanted and why the issue was discussed because it would mean that overplanted pine was now the property of landowners.

He also questioned Mr Nata as to what approval was given to FPL to plant on their native land and whether they could legally claim damage sustained by their forest and resources.

Mr Nata explained that since FPL had overplanted the pine and spent its resources to nurture the trees, they intended to harvest the trees even though they were overplanted on native land.

He said the question of the legality of pine planting was beyond everyone present at the consultation since the agreements and drawing up of boundaries were done by those who had long gone.

In the past, Mr Nata said, elders would mark lease boundaries using natural features which were on the land to serve as markers.

Over time, he said, these markers were either moved or vanished causing confusion among landowners and FPL.

With the right equipment, Mr Nata said they wanted to revoke all leases and start anew drawing out new leases according to the new boundaries mapped by the new equipment.

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