TLTB refutes landowners’ claims regarding lessee

THE iTaukei Land Trust Board has refuted claims by landowners of Vanuavou in Saqani regarding a lessee who was alleged to have been illegally felling trees on his agriculture leased land for timber production.

Responding to concerns raised by landowners a statement from the board said the lessee had leased the iTaukei land through the proper lease process.

The statement said the subject land was outside reserve land and therefore the majority landowners consent was not needed.

“The tenant had applied for his clear fell licence which TLTB consented to and his licence was issued by the Ministry of Forests.

“Clear fell licences are issued to tenants who hold an agricultural lease.

“The transfer consent was approved by TLTB based on the utilisation of land and non-arrears of land rent.”

Meanwhile a letter from the mataqali trustee Semesa Vilise stated the last licence expired on May 10, 2016, adding they had lodged their complaint after they discovered continuous logging and ripping of wood from the subject location from September to October 2016.

Mr Vilise said they had lodged their complaint after they were advised by the Ministry of Forests that the licence had expired.

“The forests ministry letter of illegal felling and extraction of timber by the tenant dated November 14, 2016 is a clear indication of breach where the tenant was fined,” he said.

Mr Vilise said they had initially complained of unethical practice on their mataqali land by the tenant recommending for termination of lease to TLTB as their mataqali trustee.

“We have submitted the police report to the TLTB office and the Ministry of Forests letter as well,” he said.

“To clear fell timber does not mean extracting of ripped timber and removal for other personal use.”

Landowners feel they have been betrayed by and ignored by the board when they proceeded with the consent to transfer the disputed lease.”

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