Govt has right of use over land

Focus, Normal

The National, Monday July 8th, 2013


TAURAMA Valley in Port Moresby was vacant land some eight years ago when the Office of Urbanisation  (OOU) decided to conduct a pilot project to expand formal development over customary land under the National Urbanisation Policy. 

A billboard was erected beside the entrance of the road to Taurama Valley to notify the public and others of the plan for this area. 

The office commenced formulating a subdivision plan under the National Capital District Urban Development Plan and it was approved by the NCD Physical Planning Board.

As the next step forward, the office engaged a surveyor to do the boundary surveys. 

The boundary surveys were done to demarcate land owned by different clan groups. 

Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs) were also registered by the customary landowners under the ILG Registration (Amended) Act.

Landowners also  planned to register customary land titles under the Customary Land Registration (Amended) Act. 

The office built a project office at the site to facilitate and engage landowner meetings and discussions and secured funds to service the first phase of the project. 

Regardless of countless efforts by the office and the government to develop Taurama Valley, illegal land sales and development have escalated. 

Landowners are still selling their land off like hot cakes not realising that they are selling their birthrights. 

The buyers are developing and building as if this is their own rural villages. 

They do not realise that there are established government policies, laws and regulations to control development in cities and towns. Much of the developments in Tauruma Valley now are illegal because they are not approved by NCD Physical Planning Board and NCD Building Board. Taruruma Valley is within the boundaries of NCD and is subject to the Physical Planning Act. All its developments should be within the framework of this legislation. 

One may ask why NCD and government authorities wanted to control developments on customary land. 

It must be clear in the minds of all customary landowners of urban peripheries and pockets of customary land around the country that they have ownership rights but their right of use is dictated by government authorities. 

This is spelled out by the Physical Planning Act, 1989, and zoning plans are developed within this legislation. 

This is because values of these customary lands are created by the infrastructure developed on them by urban authorities. 

In the case of Taurama, if the road to Taurama army barracks and developments around Manu and East Boroko did not exist, Taurama Valley land would be of no value. 

Similarly, if the city of Port Moresby is not located in close proximity to Taurama Valley, land there will be of no value.  

The main purpose of urban development plans (UDPs) are to regulate and control development in a city or town to provide a harmonious environment for all inhabitants to enjoy life. 

Human beings, animals and plants all live harmoniously without disturbing each other.  

Unlike rural areas, cities and towns are characterised by high density, intensive developments and frequent mobility of people 

and goods. 

People with different interests often have conflict over certain locations in the city and the UDP and land zoning plans designate land uses to prevent such conflicts.  

The land users only comply with the zoning plans to realise the aspiration and goals of the plans. The overall purpose as stated is to create a conducive environment for all inhabitants. 

All developments in Taurama Valley now are illegal because they do not comply with the Physical Planning Act, NCD Urban Development Plan, Building Act and other relevant legislation. 

Regardless of the proper plan done by the OOU, different interest groups have invaded the land overnight and put up buildings as they wished.

One such development is the Dove Funeral Home which is operating a open-air crematorium in a residential area. 

The owner of Dove Funeral Home reacted to the news on June 21 that they were cremating unclaimed bodies from the Port Moresby General Hospital by saying the home’s incinerator had broken down due to constant power outages. 

This is because the existing power line in the area is intended for Don Bosco Technical School and Taurama Barracks. 

All illegal developments in Taurama Valley are now putting unnecessary pressure on the existing power line which is resulting in frequent outages.  

Expect more problems such as low water pressure, sewerage blockage, traffic congestion and other urban problems to arise because existing infrastructure does not have the capacity to support these informal developments.

PNG is known as the “Land of the Unexpected” and such activities and happenings will continue to pop up because we are not complying with government policies, laws and plans. 

More of such activities are expected in Taurama Valley and other customary land developments around the country. 

The last thing we, as a country ,want to do is create slums out of our cities and towns. 

Many towns and cities are fast becoming slums and shanty towns. 

In order to achieve balanced development and create a conducive environment for all inhabitants with conflicting interests, all developments should be subject to government policies, laws, regulations and plans. 

The Taurama Valley development plan formulated by the government will still be implemented and current developments are all deemed illegal. 

If people are building and developing land in Taurama, they should comply with all the available policies, laws and plans of the government. 

All customary land owners within the cities and their peripheries have ownership rights but not the right of use. 

Therefore, all developments should be approved and facilitated by the relevant government authorities, particularly urban authorities. 

Government authorities should not be by-passed by landowners who facilitate development with developers. 

Every developer should consult the urban, provincial and other relevant government authorities before any development. 

Urban authorities should know that all land within their area of jurisdiction comes under their control regardless of ownership. 

The urban authorities should decide on the use and type of development before any actually takes place.

This misconception that urban authorities do not have control over customary land use should be corrected because these authorities are empowered by the Physical Planning Act, 1989. 

Urban authorities have full control on the use of customary land.  


  • Max Kep is the director of the Office of Urbanisation (OOU) and chairman of the National Consultative Committee on Urbanisation (NCCU)