By ELIZABETH VUVU
ROAD infrastructure upgrading and maintenance is crucial in the Gazelle electorate of East New Britain.
Gazelle district is the largest in ENB and fifth largest in Papua New Guinea in terms of population, with about 130,000 people.
The district has five local level governments, namely Toma-Vunadidir, Livuan-Reimber, Central Gazelle, Inland Baining and Lassul-Baining . The LLGs are are diverse in their geography and have their own challenges.
Nearly all feeder roads in rural Gazelle are in deplorable condition and have become a headache for road-users who struggle to make ends meet daily. For first term MP, Jelta Wong, he has the arduous task of ensuring all road networks in the electorate are in good state.
Wong, now the Civil Aviation Minister, said while the education and health sectors remained his top priorities, he is aware of the importance of a good road network in the electorate.
And so, bearing in mind that maintaining proper feeder roads is crucial to the people, Wong as the chairman of the district development authority (DDA) took cost-cutting measures to fix the electorate’s deteriorating feeder roads.
The district spent about K1.5 million to acquire road works machinery for the district that will enable routine and responsive repairs on feeder roads. The machines include one motor grader, one wheel front-end loader, one backhoe and one dump truck.
Minister Wong feels it is a lot convenient to have road work machines readily available to respond to maintenance
Routine maintenance of ward feeder roads began in August this year and will benefit the 131 wards in the district.
The Gazelle DDA acquired road works machines with a greater focus on feeder roads as a strategy to improve access as an incentive to agricultural productive areas in the LLGs.
The engagement of the recently acquired earth moving machines is being done using funds earmarked and allocated for pre-scoped and cost responsive repairs and maintenance through respective LLGs.
The plant and machineries are being managed by Gazelle Business Corporation Limited, a company owned by the five LLGs in the District.
Minister Wong said the approach the Gazelle District Development Authority is taking is to maximize the benefit of funds allocated to LLGs for this activity which are often insufficient to afford engagement of private contractors.
He added that LLGs in Gazelle are varied and diverse in their geography and this brings with it its own challenge in ensuring skilled and experienced workmanship not only for plant operators but also for management and supervision for Department of Works standard compliance and safety of the plants & equipment.
Work has been done so far at certain sections such as:
- Rapitok, Rabagi, Tamanairik, Ratunur, Takubar, Vunakaur in Toma Vunadidir LLG.
- Vudal beach road in Inland Baining LLG
- Lungalunga inLivuan Reimber LLG
- Correctional Service road in Central Gazelle LLG
The work done include clearing, grubbing, grading, drainage works, backfilling and drain excavation.
This is a community works programme and people benefiting from these road infrastructures are seen to be cooperating and playing their part to instill a sense of partnership and ownership.
Locals in these areas that have seen improvements to their roads have expressed appreciation to the Gazelle District Administration for the upgrading of their feeder roads that has over the years fallen into a very bad state of repair and become impassable for road users.
Pastor Aminio Kake of the Christian Revival Centre at Rapitok 2, is grateful to the Gazelle District Development Authority under the leadership of Gazelle MP that the district has its own earth moving machines to immediately mobilise responsive roads maintenance to provide access to markets and improved service delivery.
Another elder at Rapitok 2, Daniel Walaunia said they are forced to walk long distances with heavy cargo when their roads are not in a good condition for public motor vehicles to use.
Takubar-Baie ward member Lele Vuere said it has been 20 years that the people have suffered from deteriorated road conditions.
Vuere said: “Ino gat luksave long mipla. Yupela kam long rausim eyewara long ai bilong mipla. Planti mama karim pinis long rot. Ol wokman i save wok long ofis, i save kisim taim long wokabaut long bagarap rot.
“Em ol hevi blong mipela long dispela rot na taim mipela lukim yupla kam wok long rot, mipela hamamas stret.”
Vuere said vehicles do not take the risk of using the road for fear of damaging their vehicles.
He reported that recently when the earth moving machines were working on their road, the local play school had to be shut down temporarily and children kept safely at home because teachers feared that curious children would run out onto the roads because they do not usually see vehicles pass to and from their area.
Vunakaur ward member Apisai Wartovo said it is heartwarming to see their roads cleared and graded as it will ease the burden on mothers having to walk long distances with their heavy cargo.
Locals at Vudal shared the same sentiments and are relieved that their road conditions have been improved enabling easy access to markets.
At Tamanairik, villagers took ownership of taking care of the earth moving machines and accommodated workers. They are happy that their roads have been given a new lease in life. But this is not the end, as more wards in the Gazelle district will continue to see the earth moving machines move into their areas to fix up their roads.
Minister Wong is hopeful that slowly but surely, all feeder roads in the five LLGs will be fixed eventually.
Minister Wong said: “I cannot make everyone happy within one term but I will try all my best to make sure that vital services such as roads, schools and health services reach the people in my district.”