Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases (SPABLs) are granted under sections 11 and 102 of the Land Act 1996. In other words these sections of the Land Act enable the conversion of customary land into SPABLs.
The process by which that happens is roughly as follows.
An application is made by the landowners to the Lands Department in Port Moresby, for their land to be taken up under an SABL.
A Land Investigation Number is then given by the Land Department in Port Moresby.
Port Moresby then refers the matter to the Provincial Land Office for a Land investigation process to begin. The Land investigation is then carried out by the District Lands Officer.
During the Land investigation process, Officers check the Name, locality and type of Land. They map out genealogies of customary landowners. A survey of the area is done and boundaries are declared between adjoining clans both within and without the proposed lease area.
Having sorted out the boundaries, informed consent is taken from ALL landowners. Land mediation takes place where there are members of the same clan who dissent.
Having done so analysis is done as to the projected population growth and whether sufficient land has been set aside for the needs of future generations.
The Land Investigation Report is then handed to the Provincial Administrator who makes an independent assessment and makes reservations where applicable. Following this the matter is referred to the Secretary for Provincial and Local Level Governments, who in her/his capacity as Custodian of Customary Land, signs a Certificate of Authenticity.
The matter is then referred to the Registrar of Land Titles who then Gazettes the Lease in the National Gazette.
All the above procedures were not adhered to in the recent acquisition of customary land under Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases. This litany of failures has been chronicled during the recent Commission of Inquiry.
Many Customary Landowners assume that the Commission of Inquiry would give them back their legal rights to the land. However the Commission of Inquiry is only a fact finding mission and all matters relating to the disputes over land ownership are the Jurisdictions of the Local Land Courts and the Land Titles Commission.
Alternatively, given the coming elections, landowners could be lobbying for the State to Compulsorily Acquire the SPABL and under section 12 of the Lands Act 1996, and have that land returned to them. Or, they could lobby for Parliament to pass retrospective legislation, annulling the Leases.
Landowners must now brace themselves for a long battle ahead.
Disclaimer: This blog post is no substitute for professional legal advice