The spin-off businesses being enjoyed by members of the Guadalcanal Plains Resources Development Company Ltd, GPRCL, are inspiring and should be emulated.
These were the words of Daniel Una, tribal chief of Roha in Central Guadalcanal.
He stressed he and his members were greatly inspired by the short talk given by the Deputy Board Chairman of the GPRDCL James Votaia on Wednesday this week in Honiara.
Roha is one of the five tribes that jointly hold the core land of the Tina River Hydro Development Project with Solomon Islands Government. Roha tribe accepted the Offer of Compensation from the Commissioner of Lands and is working closely and supporting the Government’s endeavours in bringing the Tina Hydro project into reality.
Mr Votaia and Mr Una were speaking at a workshop convened on Wednesday this week by the Tina Hydro Project Office as part of the business development assistance that SIG is committed to under the Process Agreement to acquire the Tina Hydro land, which was signed in July last year.
Mr Votaia explained their five tribes in Ghaobata get different benefits from their 20% share in the operations of the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Ltd, GPPOL.
But, he said as everything else in life, this was a new thing for them and they had encountered many difficult hurdles.
“We learned from our mistakes and challenges and today we are now on a good track. We have invested in a motel and just this week also invested in a fuel station by the South Pacific Oil compound. We are planning to build another fuel station on land we bought at Tetere and also a shopping complex in the same area,” he said.
Before revealing these plans, Mr Votaia stressed the importance of respect in any partnership.
“This is paramount in a partnership. Respect between the two partners is paramount and must be remembered all the time,” he emphasised.
“One of the good things that came out of this is we now know our different tribes better. Before that, it was trustees getting the money and being chased by tribe members all the time.
Mr Votaia shared the experiences in a workshop organised by the Tina River Hydro Development Project Office to update Roha tribe members on a corporation structure proposed for them.
Mr Votaia said the Association was lucky in that the model they are now gaining from was developed by the World Bank for African countries in post conflict situations to help bring back peace adding it was developed mostly for the mining sector.
“We saw the model as a good one when the GPPOL was starting out after the ethnic problems and it was recommended we tried it” he revealed.
Mr. Votaia also highlight in the meeting that the core land tribes of the Tina project are very fortunate to have the Tina Project Office advising and assisting them in the set up of their tribal corporations. He also highlighted that most of the matters shared by the Tina Project team are matters that his group has encountered in their initial setup. The Tina Project Core land tribes have an added advantage in that they have access to expert advice from the Tina project team.
Roha tribal chief Daniel Una thanked Mr Votaia for agreeing to be present to give their inspiring story and also thanked the Project Office for arranging the talk.
Una said that Roha Tribe is very keen to hear more about the GPRDCL model in future workshops and the tribe is very encouraged as there should be better means of sharing benefits from major investment. Una also highlighted that he as leader of Roha Tribe would not encourage sharing of royalties which continues to divide tribes and encourages hatred. The GPRDA model is a means to achieving better outcomes.
Una also highlighted that the setup of tribal corporations for the core land tribes is one of the undertakings agreed with the Government in the Process Agreement signed by all core land tribes last year. He said the current workshops and corporation setup being done by the Tina Project Office are a positive sign of the government fulfilling its commitments under the agreement.
He said that “The rapid progress on such benefits is especially encouraging as it proves that Government obligations under the process agreement are being adhered to and improves our relationship with the Government.”
Under the Process Agreement between the Government and the core land tribes, the government committed to setting up one tribal corporation for each of the tribes, and supporting these corporations in developing business activities for them. These tribal corporations would in turn hold shares in a Tina Core Land Company, which would be 50% owned by the tribes, and 50% owned by the Government. This Tina Core Land Company will hold the Perpetual Estate of the Tina Hydro Core Land, instead of trustees, or the Commissioner of Lands, as in other projects.
Chief Una also went on to assure the Government and the Tina project stakeholders that Roha Tribe will continue to support the Government in making the Tina project a reality for the Solomon Islands. “Roha Tribe has come a long way with the Government on the project and there should be no turning back. Roha Tribe will work closely with the Tina project office and relevant Government Ministries to ensure that we are ready to participate in the development of the Tina project comes construction, we want to be part of the early works- Gone are the days when we sit and wait for the royalties, now we would like to be directly involve in building project and making the royalty.”
Meanwhile, Tina Hydro Deputy Project Manager Fred Conning also thanked Mr Votaia for his time, encouragement and being a role model for Guadalcanal resource owners.
“I am encouraged by the leadership displayed by GPRDA, this is what the Tina project team would like to see with Tribes of the Tina Project.” Mr Conning also thanked the leaders of Roha Tribe, for continue to have confidence in the Government and the project office in working with them in ensuring that benefits from the project are realized. “Roha can be another example of a well organized tribal entity enjoying benefits from their resources if they can start looking at different means of dispensing benefits from the projects. I would like to also encourage Roha to focus on getting your tribal members organized and not to be swayed by others.”
For more information, please contact:
Deputy Project Manager Fred Conning on 25133