Government is still paying thousands of dollars each year to landowners of Komarindi, central Guadalcanal, since 1996 although it has yet to acquire the land.
The 12,900 hectare Komarindi site had been earlier proposed for a major hydro project that would provide electricity to Honiara.
But the project never got off the ground, nor the land registered, while the government had so far spent nearly $4 million to land trustees.
The payments are being made under an agreement the government struck with landowners in 1996 during the initial talks on the hydro project.
Komarindi land was valued at $8 million. Together with all the resources on the site such as trees, the total value of the proposed hydro site was $202 million.
Commissioner of Lands Nester Maelanga confirmed to the Sunday Star Komarindi land lease is yet to be registered and owned by the government.
She said although the lease has not been registered, the government is still honouring its side of the agreement with the landowners by paying them their yearly rate.
Maelanga explained that payments to the five trustees were made according to the arrangement set out in the agreement.
The arrangement sets out that on the first year to the fifth, a yearly amount of $25,000 is to be paid to the land trustees.
From the sixth year to the 15th – $30,000 yearly; 16th to 30th year – $35,000; from the 31st to 45th – $40,000; 46th to 60th year – $45,000, and from the 61st to the 75th year – $50,000.
Maelanga said the most recent payment was made in March this year.
This is happening while the government appeared to have now moved away from Komarindi and seriously developing Tina Hydro Project, also in central Guadalcanal.
Maelanga said although Tina hydro is progressing well, the Ministry of Mines and Energy still has interest in the Komarindi site.
“This is why we are still keeping to the terms of the agreement although we have not registered the lease yet,” she said.
Assistant Lands Commissioner Rural, Bob Waitara, added the government view Komarindi site as a highly idea for hydro development.
He said their Ministry is yet to receive any indication of other alternatives from the Ministry of Mines and Energy on this.
“Any alternative national development is yet to be known but the government is keen to see this acquired land developed, for whatever purpose it is, it will surely need further consultation,” he said.
Waitara added in such instance, it is rare to have the government letting go of such land for national development project but will find alternatives.
“Government had already spent almost $4 million to hold on to the Komarindi site despite the lack of development so it would be a big loss if the government let go of it,” he said.
But Deputy Director Energy Division at Ministry of Mines, Gabriel Aimea said Komarindi project is just an alternative to the Tina hydro project.
“Our focus is now on the Tina hydro. Komarindi is just an alternative,” Aimea said.
He could not say what Komarindi will become if Tina gets off successfully.
It is understood a feasibility study in the proposed Komarindi hydro project was done in 1988 by a private company from New Zealand Tonkin and Taylor International LTD.