8 Feb 2007

Customary landowners in a Solomon Islands province begin registering property

8:57 am on 8 February 2007

Customary landowners in the Solomon Islands province of Malaita are beginning the process by which they will be able to officially register their property.

This marks the first time that customary lands will be surveyed, registered and recognised as part of the legal system and if successful, the pilot project will be extended to other areas.

The Permanent Secretary of Lands, Charles Viva, says the Auluta project in East Malaita also marks the start of a push for the development of a palm oil project.

Mr Viva says 23 of the tribal groups interested in the project have reached a consensus on the boundaries marking their land.

"The major thrust here is that there is a move to be able to get customary land registered and recognised for development purposes. Up to this point in time, customary land is fairly loose, it's not brought into the legal system and so it's very difficult to get development."

Mr Viva says once the land is surveyed and registered, the Commissioner of Land can acquire the property to allow development to take place.

He says the acquisition is necessary until parliament passes the Tribal and Customary Land Titles Act mid-year when landowners will be able to reclaim their land.