21 May 2002

Fiji chiefs told state owns mahagony forests

10:21 am on 21 May 2002

The chairman of Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has told landowners that the state is the owner of the country's extensive mahogany forests worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Fiji Times reports that Ratu Epeli Ganilau made the clarification after some landowners threatened to reject tne report of the Great Council of Chiefs on the harvest of the mahogany and take over outright ownership of forests for harvest.

Ratu Epeli says there is no doubt that the forests belong to the state which has paid for their planting and maintenance, while the indigenous owners own the land.

The Chiefs' report has recommended that a 10 percent stampage be paid to the land owners before harvest and 50 percent of all profits shared with them as various forms of investment.

Indigenous landowners would get the contracts to harvest the forests, and replant and maintain new trees.