Bright new day in Lae city

Editorial, Normal

The National – Tuesday, December 28, 2010

GOVERNOR Luther Wenge was visibly excited and happy yesterday.
And, so, he should be. Finally, the issue about which he has been literally yelling on the floor of parliament was launched by acting Prime Minister Sam Abal.
 The pothole-riddled roads of Lae city have received K50 million and, by the first quarter of next year, a further K67 million will be handed out.
By the end of next year, the road woes of the biggest port city in PNG should be a thing of the past.
The four contracts, which were handed out to four Lae-based contractors, will target the most crucial and urgent of the roads in Lae city.  These included the stretch of Markham Road from Bugandi to the junction at Milfordhaven and from there to the St Mary’s School roundabout, from Angau Hospital to top town and hugging Coronation Road all the way to Tusa clinic and all the top town roads including the central bus stop.
Accompanied by Finance Minister and Treasurer Peter O’Neill and Forest Minister Timothy Bonga, Abal called for contractors and relevant government regulatory agencies to strife for and deliver quality, on time and within budget.
Lae is the biggest and busiest port in the country. It is also the hub of business, housing more manufacturing plants than any other city or town.
From Lae, all of the essential supply for the five highlands provinces are landed and transported up the Highlands Highway. From here, all produce from the highlands are unloaded to await shipment overseas.
From Lae, the critical goods for all major resource projects in the highlands are landed and transported.
Lae, without question, is crucial to one-third of the population of Papua New Guinea and the economic well-being of this nation.
There is an ongoing project, funded by the Asian Development Bank, to develop and expand the Lae port. While this is good, it must be complemented by good and modern roads.
A city, riddled with potholes, is unattractive to both investors, visitors and city residents. Lae deserves better, and it is time it got it.
The biggest and busiest port in the country, and the hub of business and the point from which the five highlands provinces and the important resources projects are serviced, needs a good road network to complement the port.
But, it is vital to focus on the acting prime minister’s call for quality. It is vital because these same roads in Lae have been patched, dug up and reconstructed so many times in the past.
Tens of millions of kina have been spent on Lae roads and, still, the potholes keep appearing.
The reality is that the water table in Lae is very high as is the rainfall. Given that fact, construction companies must be able to design and deliver roads that are durable.
On that note, the move to have all the new roads constructed from concrete rather than bitumen is a change. From the earlier works at the Bugandi roundabout and the St Mary School roundabout, which were constructed of concrete, Lae might be onto a good thing here. The experience will also be an eye opener and Lae might export this to the rest of the country.
Works Department engineers, certifying all works, must ensure the work is of the highest standard before certifying it.
We hear of too many instances where there is collaboration between contractor and certifying engineer resulting in substandard work. There must be no sweetheart deals or buddy-buddy handshakes.
The onus is on the four companies awarded the road contracts yesterday to deliver on quality.
While the government should always support local contractors, these companies must return the favour by striving to deliver good roads and any other infrastructure that will withstand the elements for a lot longer than is the case.
It is time also to stop variations of contracts in mid-contract. If companies cannot plan or anticipate contingencies, they should not be in the construction business.
We are sick and tired of seeing money spent on the same roads, such as Lae, again and again while the rest of the country cries out for development.
Any company that cannot build a road that can last for 10 years should not be doing business with the government.
All future business with the government should be tied to quality work and, if that is not coming from local contractors, then it should be sourced offshore.