The staff of the National Forest Service in Port Moresby have planted over 1500 teak stumps in honour of the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, the country’s founding father, who died on February 26th, 2021 in Port Moresby after being diagnosed by doctors with pancreatic cancer. The stumps were planted on March 19th, 2021 during the commemoration of the annual United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Forests held at Kuriva Forestry Plantation, an hour’s drive out of Port Moresby.
The Forestry sector takes its hat off to the Grand Chief who during his term as Prime Minister led international talks which greatly progressed forestry and climate change initiatives.
In 2002, the Somare–Marat Government introduced the Export Driven Recovery Strategy to resurrect the ailing economy. Resources sectors including forestry were directed to identify impact projects for this Forestry named 10 of which seven are currently operational.
Sir Michael is the patron of REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). In 2005, through his leadership PNG was one of the first countries in the world to seek to combat climate change. A speech he gave in Columbia University in New York in 2005 resulted in the tropical rainforest nations forming the "Coalition of Rain Forests Nations" (CoRFN) at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). CoRFN ensured PNG with the support of Costa Rica hit the world stage when it got a standing ovation from over 15,000 delegates from 200 plus nations when its agenda “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries to Stimulate Action" (RED) at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 11) was pushed through. Sir Michael became known as the pioneering or founding leader of rainforest nations as a result of this.
In 2006, his leadership saw the establishment of the National Land Development Task Force after the National Land Summit in August 2005. In March 2009 late Sir Michael’s Government ensured that two acts were passed namely Land Groups Incorporation (Amendment) Act, 2009 and Land Registration (Customary Land) (Amendment) Act, 2009. These legislative changes positively impacted forest resource development, especially in guaranteeing resource security and ownership, including enhancing the security of private-sector investment, not only in forestry but all sectors of the economy.
In 2007, PNG hosted the 42nd Session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC) in Port Moresby which was opened by the Grand Chief. It was the first-ever ITTC Session hosted by PNG in its 33 years history of membership to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
In 2008, still under the late Sir Michael’s leadership, landowner monetary benefits relating to royalties was increased based on species grouping.
The establishment of the Somare Compartment in Kuriva Forestry Plantation in the Central province is the PNG Forest Authority’s token of appreciation for Sir Michael’s great assistance to the forestry sector.