The National, Tuesday June 9th, 2015
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill promised more for Lae last November when he opened a new K150 million extension to the city’s main wharf.
Hailing the 100-metre extension as another successful infrastructure project, O’Neill said the Lae port development was one of the many projects funded by his Government in the country’s industrial hub.
He promised more development funding for Lae in 2015.
Last Friday, O’Neill put the icing on the cake with the establishment of the new Lae City Authority (LCA).
He introduced the Lae City Authority Bill and pushed for its speedy enactment after the third reading.
Despite stiff opposition and a last-ditch appeal by Morobe Governor Kelly Naru for O’Neill to withdraw the bill, the Government used its numerical strength to push through the legislation by 59 to 5 votes.
Naru argued that there was no need for the LCA to replace the Lae Urban Local Level Government, which was tasked with the exact function of providing municipal services for the city. O’Neill stood his ground and said politics should be left out for the good of the Lae people.
O’Neill has always been passionate about Lae and the LCA is his solution to the problems that have plagued the city for many, many years.
“Lae is a growing city and serves as the manufacturing centre for our country,” he said.
“We all have travelled to Lae at some point or another and have been dismayed by the state of roads and garbage piling up on the streets for many, many years.
“That is changing.
“Our National Government has already made very significant investments in Lae.
“City roads are now undergoing major rehabilitation, and in many cases, the construction work has been finished and we can see the city changing before our eyes.
“Many of the roads have now been completed except the Lae-Nadzab road, which is now widened to a four-lane highway and the first section of that highway is being constructed.
“The Lae ports have recently been extended and have been completed. That is expanding the business capacity of our city as
“I am concerned that these investments will be lost if we continue to neglect and poorly maintain those assets in the situation and the level of management that we are providing today.
“That is why we are creating an authority that will take ownership of delivering and management of the municipal services in the greater Lae area.”
We agree that Lae deserves better and should be given a real opportunity to develop and grow into a modern metropolis.
Hopefully, Governor Naru and his Tutumang (provincial assembly) members will come around sooner than later to support the LCA and its chairperson Loujaya Kouza to improve the city.
Unfortunately, Naru and Kouza have not seen eye-to-eye on the LCA since the proposal was floated last year.
Both leaders should now put aside their differences and work in harmony for the good of their city and province.
The Lae MP was earmarked as chairperson and had to relinquish her portfolio as Minister for Religion, Youth
and Community Development.
Moreover, her long-awaited appointment has not been without controversy.
Kouza has been accused of hiding in hotel rooms and not attending to her official electoral duties, including public engagements, since the beginning of the year. Starting in January when the industrial hub was jolted by a spate of brutal killings, the Lae MP was conspicuous by her absence.
We said at the time that Kouza should stop hibernating and prove that she can fill the huge shoes left by her predecessor Bart Philemon.
She has been handed a second chance to do so.
In fact, the chairperson wasted no time in giving her first media interview, saying the LCA intends to “hit the ground running”.
Kouza gave a brief overview of what she and her top team plan to do to “raise the benchmark” and make Lae “a smart city”.
Time is of the essence and Kouza needs to burn the midnight oil if she really wants to achieve her goals by 2017.
There is no third chance if she stuffs up this time.