Officials of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) met with over 90 representatives of communities from the Langalanga lagoon area- who hold customary rights over Bina harbour – to brief them on the Bina Harbour Tuna Processing Plant Project.
MFMR officials sought their support for enabling access to the harbour area for the plant operator during a consultation which was held at Kukum Catholic Hall in Honiara on Friday 10 June, 2022.
Securing access to use the harbour is a key component of the project and the discussion was thus aimed at fully informing the people on what the project will mean to them, and to explain the process of mapping and recording their rights.
MFMR’s Permanent Secretary, Dr Christain Ramofafia, opened the discussion by noting the mandate given to MFMR in 2015 by the National Government to lead the Bina Harbour Project. This includes leading engagement with key line government ministries, the Malaita Provincial Government, development partners and potential investors.
Dr Ramofafia highlighted that the consultation was to familiarise participants about the project’s overall concept and to build each community member’s awareness of their roles in moving the project forward.
MFMR Assistant Secretary Project Management, Lisa Sugumanu, provided an overview of how the Ministry’s Project Management Division is handling the project. She said the project remains a top government priority because of the potential it has to drive economic growth hence provide both direct and indirect benefits, and enhance social equity.
The Project’s Community Liaison Officer for land and water source access, Julio Aihunu, provided an update on parallel community awareness activities regarding access to a water source for the plant. He also gave an update on land settlement at Bina, noting that the long history of issues is now close to resolution, and that the Trust Deeds for the key parcels of land are expected to be signed shortly.
The Bina Project Manager Peter Cusack described the fishing and processing model that a private sector investor is expected to follow at Bina. Mr Cusack also outlined the considerable interest and support for the project being shown by New Zealand, Australia, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group and USAID.
He also noted the critical support and cooperation of the Malaita Provincial Government. As an example of what local communities might expect when the project is operational, Mr Cusack pointed to the growth of Noro Town arising from SolTuna’s operations there.
The Project’s Legal Consultant-Harbour, Steward Tabo told the gathering that the project team is mindful of the need to build the right foundations for success, and that meant MFMR fully recognises and respects the customary rights of local communities.
Mr Tabo’s presentation was supplemented by Lawrence Arukwai, Community Liaison Officer for the harbour. He said mapping the harbour rights holders is crucial to ensuring that their rights are safeguarded, while at the same time enabling use of the harbour by the Bina operator.
Generally, the collective responses of the participants were in-principle support for the project and a general commitment to engage in detailed discussions with the Ministry about what roles they might play in supporting its realisation.
The next round of consultation is held this week in the Bina and Langalanga area.
-Bina Harbour Project/MFMR Joint Press