Years of Negotiations Culminate in $3 Million Commitment
The Solomon Islands Government, Solomon Water, and Kongulai landowning tribes signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to address long-standing issues related to the Kongulai Water source.
The Solomon Islands Government, led by Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil and Solomon Water CEO Carmine Piantedosi, joined landowners’ representatives, including John Tupe, Michael Hanikouna, Hillary Rava, Damaso Roko, and Charles Chilivi Keku, at the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the signing.
The MOA follows years of negotiations sparked by a 2015 High Court judgment stating that no one owns flowing water. Consequently, landowners were previously unable to benefit from water extracted by Solomon Water, leading to concerns about missed income opportunities. In August of this year, a meeting with the Prime Minister resulted in a commitment of $3 million to the landowners.
Over subsequent weeks, negotiations were conducted to integrate the promised payment into the existing government lease. In October, the landowners successfully appointed new trustees to replace deceased tribal leaders. The MOA stipulates an increased annual land rent of $850,000. The Commissioner of Lands is designated as the government’s point of contact for all land-related payments, emphasizing a shift from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The Solomon Islands Government will pay the annual land rent into a designated bank account chosen by the landowners, starting with a $3 million payment covering 2021 to 2023, including part of 2024. The review period for land rental has been shortened from ten to eight years.
Solomon Water, as the government agency responsible for public water supply, is granted access to the land by the Commissioner of Lands. The MOA imposes a permanent restriction on landowners from blocking or interfering with the natural water flow into Kongulai, emphasizing cooperation for the wider community’s benefit.
Minister of Mines and Energy, Hon. Bradley Tovosia MP, encourages Kongulai landowning tribes to adhere to the MOA. He emphasizes that land-related issues must now be directed through the Commissioner of Lands, and Solomon Water needs support from all stakeholders, including landowners.
Commissioner of Lands expresses satisfaction, stating, “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”.
Charles Chilivi, speaking on behalf of the landowners post-signing, appreciates the government’s legal commitment, pledging compliance.
Source: OPMC Press Secretariat