SOLOMON Islands’ first book on environment and land law has been published.
Several years in the making, the book, published by the Public Solicitor’s Office, brings together national and provincial laws and court cases on hot topics including logging, mining, and land disputes.
For lawyers and others working on land and environment issues, the free book provides guidance on the laws affecting landowners, communities, government, NGOs and investors.
Environmental Law in Solomon Islands was written by previous lawyers who worked as volunteers at the Landowner’s Advocacy and Legal Support Unit (LALSU), within the Public Solicitor’s Office, Stephanie Price, Adam Beeson, Joe Fardin and Jen Radford.
Tearo Beneteti provided editing and guidance.
“LALSU, a unit of the Public Solicitor’s Office, has detailed knowledge of the environmental laws of Solomon Islands and of how they work in practice,” says Martha Manaka, the head of the unit.
“LALSU lawyers travel throughout the nine provinces giving legal advice and awareness to communities and the book reflects the priorities and concerns of the people we visit, as well as the Ministries and NGOs with whom we work closely,” she added.
“At a time when land reform is a key component of the DCCG national agenda, an important national land summit was recently held, logging continues around the country, and legal issues in mining are having a huge impact on the lives of many people, the book arrives at a crucial point.
“In LALSU’s experience it is a lack of knowledge and enforcement of existing laws which causes many of the current problems we are seeing in the land and resource sector.
“Before we can look at changing our laws, or strengthening their enforcement, a broad and clear understanding of the laws currently in place, and how they are being used, is critical.”
The book contains chapters on the laws regulating customary land and the registration of land as well as the three main resource sectors of Solomon Islands, logging, mining and fisheries.
It also includes chapters on key issues such as environmental impact assessments (development consents), town planning, protected areas and the enforcement of environmental laws.
“The resource provides a welcome addition to the sparse literature on Solomon Islands law,” says Professor Jennifer Corrin Care of University of Queensland, who wrote a forward.
“Environmental law in Solomon Islands is a patchwork of national legislation co-existing with provincial ordinances and customary laws, which differ from island to island and often from village to village,” Profession Care said.
“More particularly, in a climate where the protection of the environment often comes second to the objectives of short-term economic development, and where exploitation of natural resources is continuing at an unsustainable level, this book will be a vital resource,” she added.
Funding to publish the book was made possible through the assistance of DFAT’s Solomon Islands Justice Program.
Copies of the book can be read and downloaded free of charge from the Public Solicitor’s Office website: www.pso.gov.sb.