Minister Kigwangalla softens stance on hunting block licences

29Dec 2017
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
Minister Kigwangalla softens stance on hunting block licences

THE Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Khamis Kigwangalla, yesterday announced a one-year grace period for hunting block licence owners whose licences are in danger of being suspended

Speaking to hunting industry stakeholders here, the minister said although the decision to adopt a new license auction system cannot be reversed, stakeholders can debate on the best way to implement it.

He said current procedures will continue until December 31 next year, and thereafter the changes will be implemented.

The government in October suspended all hunting block licences, including those issued in January, pending a new arrangement to auction the blocks. Under the current procedure, hunters pay royalties.

Yesterday’s announcement by the minister followed appeals from a number of hunting industry investors for a five-year grace period to give them enough time to prepare for the new system.

“You have a one-year extension on existing hunting block licences, but with new arrangement, some of you will proceed beyond the deadline as the government will implement the changes in phases,” Kigwangalla said.

He said the first phase of the auction, involving 61 vacant hunting blocks, will take place between July1 and September 30 next year, and the second phase will involve between 20 and 30 blocks.

The third phase will see another 30 blocks auctioned at a later date to be determined, and the fourth phase will also involve 20-30 blocks.

According to the minister, under this schedule, existing blocks currently leased to different investors will be auctioned at different times.

Kigwangalla also yesterday gave wildlife authorities a 60-day ultimatum to devise and finalise fairer and more profitable hunting procedures before the coming hunting season in January 2018.

The minister maintained that the new measures are meant to ensure that the nation benefits more from available natural resources, and will be implemented in a way that gives preference to local investors.

He explained that during the auctions, a certain percentage of blocks will be allocated only to local investors who nevertheless will be allowed to bid with foreign investors for other blocks.

All participants in the auctions will have to undergo official vetting to ascertain their experience, operational and business plans for the block, among other criteria, according to the minister.

He said there has been a lot of dillydallying in the operation of hunting blocks so far. Some licence owners are known to abuse the licences and return blocks to the government at their own pleasure, he added, saying things have to change now.

Some hunting block license owners who attended the meeting said they had already booked safaris for 2018, and the changes could undermine revenues from the sector.

Most of the bookings were from the US, where a hunter pays between $14,000 and $20,000 for an expedition lasting 10-21 days.

Many licence owners also said they had made big investments in their blocks. Akran Aziz of Kilombero North Safaris said a graced period of at least five years would be enough for them to prepare.

Tanzania Hunting Operators Association chief executive officer Latifa Sykes said most of the block owners already have customers up to 2020, thus any hurried decision is sure to affect them negatively.

“We see the good things you want to do, but we find it difficult to implement the changes before 2020,” Sykes told Kigwangalla.

But the minister responded that all the changes to be introduced are provided for in the laws governing the sub-sector.

Professional hunting in Tanzania is regulated by the Wildlife Act 2009 and the Tourist Hunting Regulations of 2015. The hunting sector contributes 90 per cent of funds spent on running the Tanzania Wildlife Authority.

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