Corporate entry: Pacific Islands Co. Ltd.
The first large alienation of land in the Protectorate was to the Pacific Islands Co. Ltd., which was a creation of retired senior colonial public servants such as Lord Stanmore (Sir Arthur Gordon), former Governor of Fiji and Western Pacific High Commissioner, Sir Robert Herbert, the first Premier of Queensland in the 1860s and later Under Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, and his partner Sir John Bramston, an assistant Under Secretary of State. The main commercial director was John Thomas Arundell who invested heavily in the company, and the plantation firm of Henderson and McFarlane was also involved. The original goal was never realised: to create operating capital of £250,000 through 5 percent cumulative preference shares of £1 each, and 125,000 ordinary shares of £1 each. The company failed and was £60,000 in debt when it was wound up in 1902.
Arundel and Stanmore had long-standing interests in the Solomons and had favoured establishing the Protectorate as a chartered company, as occurred in German New Guinea (q.v.) or British Borneo. Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain forbade the chartered development but was nevertheless willing to advance the interests of Pacific Islands Co. Ltd. The company wanted to possess unoccupied lands, the title of which was presumed to rest with the Protectorate Government. In 1899, the company was granted a 99-year lease which would enable it to obtain one hundred thousand acres, excluding mineral rights. By 1900, the amount of land available had doubled to two hundred thousand acres, with the idea that it would be located in the Western Solomons. This came unstuck since between 1886 and 1899 most of the Western Solomons was part of German New Guinea, and the Deutsche Handels- und Plantagen-Gesellschaft (DHPG), which had considerable investments in the German Pacific, claimed to have purchased land in the Western Solomons in 1886, although they had never occupied it. In 1902, the company's directors bought out the DHPG claims for £5,000.
The second impediment to the plan was the contested legality of a British Crown claim over waste or unoccupied lands. This has always been an issue in the Solomon Islands because all land has claimants even if they only use it seasonally or occasionally. All the British government was willing to offer was a 'Certificate of Occupation', which was not what the company expected. At this juncture leading British soap manufacturers Lever Brothers wanted direct access to the raw material, copra (the dried flesh of the coconut). The original company was liquidated and a new limited one of the same name formed in 1902. Lever Brothers owned shares as did another commercial concern, Pacific Phosphate Company. This was the beginning of Lever Brothers interests in the Solomon Islands as Levers Pacific Plantations Pty. Ltd. (q.v.). (Hookey 1969; Bennett 1987, 127-128; BSIP 18 III, item 1, Correspondence in Relation to Solomon Islands, 1898-1900)
- Bennett, Judith A., Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800-1978, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1987. Details
- Hookey, J.F., 'The Establishment of a Plantation Economy in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate', in K.S. Inglis (ed.), The History of Melanesia, Second Waigani Seminar, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University and University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, 1969, pp. 229-238. Details