The West Sepik governor in Papua New Guinea is calling for his province to get a greater share of revenue from local logging operations.

Bewani landowners walk across pile of felled logs, West Sepik Province Photo: Global Witness Media

Forestry is the main industry in West Sepik and has provided a steady revenue for PNG‘s national government for decades.

Yet according to Governor Tony Wouwou, the province itself gets relatively little financial benefit after logging is taxed, as revenue distribution in the past three years shows.

“National government got 384 million kina from the tax of the timbers… 384 million which was given away to the national government. And the landowners got only 43 million, and us, the provincial government, got only 2.8 million kina.”

Governor Wouwou said his province desperately needs funds to develop infrastructure and services.

He is urging the national government to review project agreements with logging companies that operate in West Sepik so his province gets more from the taxes.

Mr Wouwou said the various tax rates on the operations of logging companies in PNG should also be raised.

“We could use that money to develop the province,” he said.

“If it is paid to the landowners they will divide it among themselves, and they will use the money and nothing is going to happen. So I think it‘s best paid to the provincial government so we can do a budget for it, and do something better. So that the entire district or province can benefit out of it.”

As a sign of his administration‘s frustration, the Governor said they were prepared to halt logging to leverage more favourable terms of agreement for West Sepik.

“We‘ll stop the logging in my province for a bit of time and revive the project agreement. If they agree, they can keep operating. If they don‘t agree, we will stop the whole entire logging in the province and look for other investors. I do understand that our citizens need money.