Gulf to SHP road is the alternate route

Editorial, Normal

MENDI MP and Deputy SHP Governor Isaac Joseph yesterday called for the Mendi-Tambul road to be upgraded to get an alternate route to the province.
He has contributed K1 million and wants his brother member for Tambul and the national and provincial governments to chip in to open the road.
The Mendi-Tambul road has fallen into disuse and just needs upgrading and gravelling.
We would suggest that Pastor Joseph has a good chat with SHP Governor Anderson Agiru when he wants to start talking about alternate routes.
The Mendi-Tambul road would open a second access road into and out of Southern Highlands through the Western Highlands but it is not an alternate route to the province.
While the good Pr Joseph was preaching in his Assemblies of God church, suggestions were made, which his governor was witness to for a second access road to the Southern Highlands that makes far better sense. Had the discussions then borne fruit, Pr Joseph would have his best alternate route into Hela and Southern Highlands.
In 1998, an agreement was signed and sealed to build the Gulf-Southern Highlands Highway.
The highway was to follow the oil pipeline route through Kikori and onto Paia inlet to a sea port there.
The project was part of memorandum of agreement (MoA) projects for the hydrocarbon projects in the province.
The late prime minister Sir Bill Skate signed the agreement and Mr Agiru was an enthusiastic witness and promoter of this proposal.
Over the years the National Government has repeatedly reneged on this commitment, letting it fall to Mr Agiru to raise the matter time and again both as an ordinary citizen and later as an MP.
It would have been ideal to use the money that the Government had built up from all the windfall monies in trust accounts over the past eight years to build this road.
It is an economic road with returns that would repay the cost of the highway very many times over.
It is incumbent, now Mr Agiru is back at the helm and with a LNG project in the offing, that this highway be built along with the sea port to give Southern Highlands and Hela a second and shorter access to a sea port.
Southern Highlands does need access roads into neighbouring highlands province such as the Kandep-Mendi and Kandep to Margarima road as well as the Tambul access road but those do not allow the Southern Highlands access to the outside world.
With so much happening in the Southern Highlands and Hela at present, depending on the Highlands Highway is hugely risky as has been evidenced over the years.
Both natural disasters and disturbances by people had held up traffic to Southern Highlands for long periods in the past.
A case in point is the many months when Tari was completely cut off when animosity arose between the people of Nipa and the Hela Huli.
Washed away bridges in the Markham and shifting land mass in Simbu province has also held up traffic for weeks on end in the past.
The highway is subject to frequent landslides and washouts.
In April last year, the section of the highway passing through Simbu province was impassable at three separate points over different periods.
The most serious of these destroyed a 150m section of the highway at Gera village, 10km east of Kundiawa, on April 11; the upper Highlands provinces were cut off from all road transport.
Hold ups and criminal activities along the entire stretch of the Highlands Highway, notably in the Komperi area of Kainantu and in the Nebilyer valley in the Western Highlands, have also cost a great deal in time, goods lost and often people have been killed.
At present the Southern Highlands lies at the end of the Highlands Highway. Traffic must pass through the Western Highlands, Simbu, Eastern Highlands and Morobe to get to the sea port at Lae.
It makes sense, therefore, to go from Hela through one province, Gulf, to get to the coast. This would place Hela and the Southern Highlands at the head of the second access to a sea port.
There is far too much at stake in Hela and Southern Highlands today for there to be delays and hold ups on the current Highlands Highway which is in need much upgrading.