Authorities must look at expanding Mt Hagen


THERE seems to be no planning at all these days when it comes to establishing or extending new urban development.
This seems to be the case especially for Mount Hagen which caters for the huge population in the Highlands.
The city is in a state of confusion and congestion and disarray.
We need to plan ahead for our future needs.
Let’s look down memory lane at how orderly and neat the town and environment were.
For example, the glass windows on commercial buildings, bank, offices, club houses, restaurants and coffee shops that gave a modern feel for anybody coming into town for business or pleasure.
They were set up in a beautiful and orderly manner that should have been maintained.
Mt Hagen was planned before PNG achieved Independence and there was a department that planned for any growth in the former township.
The Planning Department, working closely with the Department of Lands & Physical Planning and Works, would draw up the town plan into zone for residential, light, industrial, business, recreational and reserved open space as reserve land.
Developers had to adhere strictly to the zoned purposes.
Applications to rezone and convert certain area into another zone took a lengthy process and much justification by developers.
In yesteryears, along with the above was the physical development board working in liaison with town beautification programmers and problems stemming from parking areas.
Mount Hagen was well-planned by architects and erected in particular portions or areas designated:
l Residential area – For the building of houses and flats and apartments.
l Recreation area – For erection of parks and gardens and sporting ovals and courts; and,
l Industrial zone – This is where commerce and trade business companies set up offices and factories.
Today, Mt Hagen is so cramped there is a rush to set up new businesses in the accommodation sector with hotels, motels, lodges, guest houses and inns springing up all over the city.
Rural folk are pouring in every day to take their share of the city, engaging in money-making ventures be in formal or informal.
Unplanned development leads to overcrowding and chaos and the lack of provision of municipal services must be addressed by the appropriate authorities.
Mt Hagen requires urgent urban planning with the establishment of a physical planning board to control, monitor and approve development within the Physical Planning Regulations of 1989 of Land Act 1996.
We are fully aware that former Minister for Lands and Physical Planning, Benny Alla, handed over to Governor Pais Wingti, physical planning and land board powers in front of Eda Tanoa Haus on Nov 7, 2014, as per The National article.
However, to date, Mt Hagen does not have a physical planning board, lands board, building board or health and hygiene boards to monitor development and municipal service provision.
A major trend that has developed in land-grabbing and numerous issues of State land titles have been disputed.
This situation can be controlled when we establish proper municipal authorities, relevant Acts and Regulations of Governance.
On those notes the prevailing situation to providing services to the huge population coming into Mt Hagen everyday from within the province and outside.
Priority should be given to extend the city boundaries of Mt Hagen into customary land surrounding the city which is owned by the Moge’s Jiga, Kopi, Yamka, Kuklika, Keme, Truka, Memka, Elti-Penembi and Kungunka Palga tribes.
These tribes are urged to take ownership of the Mt Hagen city expansion because of its strategic location, with new four lane road and new international airport facilities leading to and air traffic increase, thus, economic services, social services must be provided.
There is no other better option but to organise awareness programmes to inform people from the mentioned tribes to make available their land to be incorporated for expansion.
I suggest that a land use development forum be organised in consultation with the Mt Hagen city authority, NRI, Lands Department’s chief physical planner and the Department of Community Development, as well as other relevant agencies for land mobilisation of customary land for the expansion of Mt Hagen city.