SIG, Solomon Water and Landowners sign Kongulai MOA.
The Solomon Islands Government, Solomon Water and representatives of Kongulai landowning tribes have today signed a Memorandum of Agreement, MOA, committing all parties to lasting solution to outstanding issues pertaining to Kongulai Water source.
The Solomon Islands Government is represented by the Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil, CEO of Solomon Water Carmine Piantedosi and the landowners representatives John Tupe, Michael Hanikouna, Hillary Rava, Damaso Roko and Charles Chilivi Keku signed the Memorandum of Agreement at the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet this morning.
The MOA comes about as a result of years of protracted negotiations for a review of the lease, following a High Court judgement in 2015 which states that nobody owns flowing water, therefore landowners are not permitted to benefit from a share of the water extracted by Solomon Water. The landowners thus felt they were missing out on the income generated from their land. In August this year, the landowners met the Prime Minister and a payment of $3 Million was promised to the landowners.
The MOA was negotiated over the following weeks, to determine how the payment fits in with the current government lease over the land. The landowners also had to appoint new trustees to take over from deceased tribal leaders, and this was finally achieved in October. The MOA states that the annual land rent is now increased to $850,000.00.
It was also spelled out clearly in the Agreement, that the Solomon Islands Government point of contact for all payments for the land is the Commissioner of Lands, and not the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The annual land rent shall be paid by the Solomon Islands Government into a single bank account, to be designated by the landowners, commencing with a payment of $3 million for the years 2021 to 2023 inclusive and part of 2024.
There is also a change in the review period for land rental from the previous 10 years to 8 years.
For all intents and purposes, Solomon Water is the government agency responsible for providing public water supply, and the Commissioner of Lands allows Solomon Water to access, develop and use the land for this purpose.
The MOA further stated, landowners are to be permanently restrained from, and further agree to not block or interfere in any way the flow of natural water entering Kongulai from sinkholes further inland, including from Kovi stream, so long as the lease subsists, and to do all things necessary to persuade the people they own the Iand on behalf of and the landowners of the wider catchment area to do likewise.
Minister of Mines and Energy, Hon. Bradley Tovosia MP encourages Kongulai landowning tribes to abide by the Memorandum of Agreement.
“Today’s signing is an assurance of all parties commitment to the MOA”, Tovosia emphasized. From now, land issues in relation to Kongulai water source must be channeled through the Commissioner of Lands, not the OPMC or other Ministries. Solomon Water needs the support of all stakeholders including landowners, Minister Tovosia stressed.
On behalf of the government, Commissioner of Lands said, “I am happy that we have finally reached an agreement with landowners that provides for a permanent and legal basis on which payments will be made into the future, and that it is a deal that satisfies the wishes of landowners while at the same time protecting Solomon Water’s right to operate in this area”.
Speaking on behalf of the landowners post signing, Mr. Charles Chilivi appreciated the government for the legal commitment, pledging compliance on their part.
– OPMC PRESS