The National – Tuesday, February 15, 2011
PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare last Friday opened the first completed stretch of road works in Lae, Morobe.
The 1.25km road, which runs from Administration compound to the junction at 7th Street in top town, was constructed by local firm Ahi Sieng in partnership with Dekenai Construction.
With its commissioning, the industrial capital of Papua New Guinea is heading for an era of unprecedented growth and much-needed facelift, which should rid it once and for all of its “pothole capital of the Pacific” tag.
Five construction companies have been engaged to overhaul almost all parts of Lae’s extensive road network with another six tenders still awaiting confirmation.
Everywhere, excitement hangs in the air like the cloud of dust which hovers constantly over Lae from all the road works.
The first impression any longtime Lae resident would have, when seeing the clearing work now taking place at where a Papindo Trading merchandise store along 7th Street used to be, would be that Papindo is “rising from the ashes”.
Rising from the ashes indeed, but the clearing is for a temporary office set-up for the Bitumen and Engineering Contractors, Shorncliffe (PNG) Ltd.
Shorncliffe, owned by Papindo Trading, is currently contracted to carry out the road maintenance in and around the main business district in Lae’s top town.
Since the road maintenance is mostly done during the evening, and into the night, it would be reasonable for the contractors to have their office somewhere close.
Night operation was necessary to avoid conjunction with traffic and pedestrian alike during the day.
Walking down memory lane, this particular space of land used to be the turf for one of the best fish “n” chips outlet in Lae, known as the Lae Fish Supply. It was owned by a Jack Johnson and his son Wayne.
The Johnsons used to live in the neighbouring 8th Street. Those who lived in and around the town area some 30 years ago would know the Johnsons.
Johnson senior also owned Lae Freezer which he later sold to Brian Bell in 1978. Junior Johnson later sold Lae Fish Supply to Mario Cobuccio of Boinamo Enterprises Ltd and moved to his Buambub plantation 9km out of Lae along the Highlands Highway.
The Lae Fish Supply was later bought by Papindo Trading and turned into a merchandise store. The building was razed by fire some years ago.
Shorncliffe has been digging up bitumen, levelling gravel over potholes and opening up drainage systems much to the relief of city residents and visitors.
Work started at the 12th and 13th streets and covers the entire top town area.
All contractors have had their employees hard at work until about 11pm working Saturdays and Sundays as well.
The pace is relentless and the traffic chaotic, but Lae residents, sick and tired of the potholes, are taking everything in their stride. There is a glimmer of reprieve and hope at the end of the road.
“It is about time something is done to rectify this ugly looking potholes which gives nothing but headaches and backaches to us for a long time now,” resident Michael Naleng told The National last week.
New buildings are springing up in different parts of the city, led by a multi-storey office and residential complex funded by Nambawan Super.
Hundreds of sea containers line up almost the entire runway of the old Lae Airport. They belong to the liquefied natural gas project, we are told.
The prime minister also announced last Friday that a K500 million funding had been secured from the
Asian Development Bank for the construction of the largest port in the Pacific outside
of Australia and New Zealand.
Dredging of the seabed of all the silt, deposited by the Markham River, has been ongoing but it has intensified and, when that is completed, construction work on the new port would begin.