I am concerned, as are many others, over the fate of proposed UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE sites in PNG, to which I hope to add the Karawari Caves. These illegal SABLs are not simply in violation of landowner rights, but present direct threats to some of these sites deemed to have global significance for their historical and biological value. Below I am attaching a statement to this effect from the former World Heritage consultant to the Department of Environment and Conservation, Peter Hitchcock.
SPECIAL AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS LEASES (SABL) AND WORLD HERITAGE
In 2006, the Government of Papua New Guinea nominated seven areas to the World
Heritage Tentative List, a precursor to future full nominations to the World Heritage List.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/state=pg Places on the Tentative List are not
necessarily already protected but instead represent a signal to the international community
that PNG possesses areas of ʻOutstanding Universal Valueʼ - World Heritage - and that
under the World Heritage Convention PNG has committed to protect these areas of its
natural and cultural heritage.
Tentative Listed Sites
The seven areas of PNG that have been placed on the World Heritage Tentative List are:
• Huon Terraces - Stairway to the Past
• Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau
• Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges
• Milne Bay Seascape (Pacific Jewels of Marine Biodiversity)
• The Sublime Karsts of Papua New Guinea
• Trans-Fly Complex
• Upper Sepik River Basin
ʻThe Sublime Karstsʼ is a ʻserialʼ site comprising three separate areas - Muller Plateau and Hindenburg Wall in the highlands and Nakanai Mountains in New Britain.
Protection of Tentative Listed areas:
Only parts of some of the listed areas have any form of protection. Part of the Trans Fly is
reserved as Wildlife Management Areas which remain in customary ownership. None of
the Upper Sepik site has been protected. Only a very small part of the Nakanai Karst
section of the Sublime Karst has been protected (Kavakuna Cave).
SABLʼs and World Heritage Tentative List:
The SABLʼs presented on website https://www.pngsdf.com/sabl/ reveals that a number of
the areas sold as SABLʼs impact on several of PNGʼs World Heritage Tentative List Sites.
Three examples so far identified are presented herein.
Upper Sepik Site (map above)
Three SABLʼs (white edge) in the Sepik overlap with the ʻUpper Sepik Basinʻ (red edge) as
nominated to UNESCO World Heritage Committee as an area that PNG wouldseek to protect.
The owners of the three SABLʼs are shown (from west to east) as:
• Wammy Ltd
• Nuku Resources Ltd
• Nu n g awa Ra i n f o r e s t Management Alliance
Sublime karsts (Nakanai):
The Nakanai Karst section of the Sublime Karst site does not specify a boundary, only the karst -
the cavernous limestone of the Nakanai. A total of 5 SABLʼs are located on the Nakanai Karst
and includes more than 80 kms of ocean frontage (map above).
The ownership of the five SABLʼs on the Nakanai karst are indicated on the map.
The Nakanai Karst extends from the sea coast up to more than 2,000 metres elevation on the Nakanai Mountains. Some major underground rivers and caves have been explored by international expeditions but much of the Nakanai karst remains unexplored. The caves already discovered and explored put the Nakanai karst of Papua New Guinea into a world class for caves and fully justifies the area having been nominated to the World Heritage Tentative List in 2006.
Only one small reserve has been established in the Nakanai, a Wildlife Management Area over the massive Kavakuna cave.
Threats to Karst:
Karst is fragile and can be highly problematic for any development, especially where highly cavernous as in Nakanai. Runoff from roads, logging operations, oil palm refuse all threaten the pristine caves below.
A further threat to the Nakanai karst and caves is the issue of a large mining Exploration License over the karst, possibly including Kavakuna Cave. Exploration is reportedly for limestone mining for cement manufacture. The license is held by Port Moresby based Melanesian
For more information on the Nakanai Karst and Caves visit:
Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau
The Kikor i River Basin Tentative Site is located partly in Southern and We s t e r n Pr o v i n c e s . A specif ic boundary was nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Two SABLʼs have been identified as overlapping the boundary of the Tentative Listed area, both in Western Province.
The main threat that might arise from sale of the SABLʼs will be logging and oil palm development.