Finally the Government is trying to address the issue of settlements through a national policy to aid better planning and servicing of settlements as affordable housing facilities for working people.
We need that instead of the mishmash of poor living spaces we see today in our cities and towns.
There is no planning at all when it comes to new urban development. Take, for example, the case of our national capital city.
It is a mess, with 90 settlements lacking organisation; houses encroach on roads, power supplies being connected illegally, a lack of water supply and sewerage systems, and the list goes on.
Go down memory lane and look at how orderly and neat Port Moresby was with well-planned suburbs like Boroko, Korobosea, Town and Gordon.
These were planned by architects and erected in areas designated as:
- Residential– for dwelling buildings (houses and flats and apartments);
- Recreational – for the erection of parks and gardens and sporting facilities; and
- Industrial – for the purpose of commerce and trade.
They were set up in an orderly way.
Before we gained independence from Australia, Port Moresby was a city whose growth was planned.
Obviously there was a department or office responsible for such growth, and that Planning department worked with Lands and Physical Planning, and Works Department to develop the city into zones for residential, light industrial, business, recreational and reserved.
Developers had to adhere to zoning rules and an application to rezone an area went through a lengthy process and much justification.
This task now lies with the Office of Urbanisation but sadly this office has been too quiet.
The settlement policy is clearly a reaction to uncontrolled development in the city.
The policy should have been in place some 20 years ago when settlements were starting up and not after they had become a permanent part of the landscape.
Unplanned development led to overcrowding and that led to other related issues like crime, health and education.
Port Moresby is so cramped today there is a rush to set up new businesses in the accommodation sector with hotels, motels, guesthouses, lodges and inns springing up everywhere.
Folks from our rural areas are pouring in every week hoping to find their pot of gold and then mostly spend the rest of their life on the fringes of society – unemployed, uneducated and poor.
Today, we have traditional landowners on the city fringes selling their land to city folks who are in desperate need of accommodation.
And one still sees houses being built in an already overcrowded area.
Urbanisation has been happening at a fast rate and our hope now is for the policy to come into effect soon so proper service lines are pulled in for the benefit of those who live there.
The Office of Urbanisation and the National Housing Corporation must work together with Lands and Physical Planning and the Works Department to divide the city into zones and control growth.