This was revealed by Minister of Environment and Conservation Samuel Manetoali during the three-day round table meeting with East Rennell World Heritage Site Committee, government and stakeholders at Honiara Hotel on Friday.
“Cabinet has concluded to direct the Commissioner of Forestry and Minister of Forestry and Research to revoke and refuse granting any felling licenses within all the areas at East Rennell and the World Heritage Site.
“This cabinet decision demonstrates the current government’s renewed commitment to ensure that the only ‘World Heritage Site’ in our country is given the attention it deserves,” he said.
“This also shows the government’s renewed commitment to the development of this national asset,” MrManetoali said.
Also speaking during the meeting, Senior Forestry Officer Samuel PitakakaVazu said that their ministry is committed to abide by the cabinet conclusion.
“We were directed not to issue any felling license for Rennell and particularly areas near the conservation program.
“Also it’s challenging though, because there are areas in the Act that needs reviewing to cater for the current directives,” he said.
Mr Vasu also adds the industry’s sensitivity when dealing with felling license and resource owners.
“If East Rennell is declared a protected site under an act, then we need proper inventory measures from the Forestry sector,” Mr Vasu told the participants during a panel discussion.
“But again this needs a concerted effort from resource owners and the government,” he adds.
Chairman of East Rennell World Heritage Site Committee, George Tauika said it is high time to touch the lives of the people.
“We have displayed patience and obedience to uphold the agreement in 1998 and up to today,” he said adding the challenges of survival with big regards to respect the environment and holding back in the face of encroaching logging incentives.
“To my good people in East Rennell, let us be genuine and support the national government as primary custodians of the program.
“One very important thing we should remember is that, East Rennell world heritage program is not our project; it is the national government project,” he said.
Logging operations on West Rennell (12km away), invasion of pests and over-harvesting saw the site being added to the ‘in-danger’ list in 2013 based on advice by IUCN; the official World Heritage advisory body on nature.
Meanwhile, East Rennell people in Honiara and in the province are hopeful that the outcome of the round table meeting this week will rekindle hope for the possibility of sustainable development in their homeland.
The meeting was attended by heads from the Ministry of Environment and Conservation, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries, East Rennell tribal and church leaders, UNESCO and IUCN and NGO’s rep.
By TEDDY KAFO