Morobe: Reaching remote corners still a challenge

Momase, Normal

The National, Thursday 6th June 2013


WITH a population of about half a million spread over more than 34,000 sq km of land area and a maritime zone of 719 sq km,  Morobe is a demographic conundrum.

Social mapping has indicated that less than half the province is unpopulated and rural enclaves and district stations are far apart from each other and far-flung from the capital, Lae.

It has eight outlying administrative districts. The ninth is the city of Lae, the provincial capital and industrial hub of the country. Lae’s population is pushing 200,000.

Out of the nine districts, there are 33 local level governments (LLGs), the largest number of any province, containing 547 wards.

Unfortunately, the sheer physical size of Morobe combined with its rugged geography continues to frustrate government efforts to reach out to the outlying, generally remote, rural communities. 

This is compounded by the fact that about half the province has no road links with Lae.

With the exception of Markham, Kabwum, Menyamya and Bulolo districts, the other five share the coastline but they are equally inaccessible because there is no reliable maritime transport system.

Governor Kelly Naru accurately describes Morobe as “a country within a country” which points out the real dilemma that previous provincial governments have failed to address – accessibility.

Consider this: Morobe has one of the poorest transportation infrastructures and this has had a debilitating effect on every other sector over the years.

In extremely remote places such as Siassi Island in the northwestern-most corner and Morobe Patrol Post along the southern coastline, it is abundantly apparent that government influence is minimal.  

At Siassi, the government station had not seen any maintenance for  decades and most buildings were abandoned back in the early 1990s.

A ring road that once linked the rural communities on the island is now a two-runnel track that is traversed by buffalo pulled carts. In the wet times, these tracks turn into streams. 

Government health workers, teachers, police and postal workers have left promptly for other locations that afford easier access to necessities such as banks, shops, post offices and other services in Lae.

 “I am appalled and shocked by the level of deterioration here,” Naru said during a visit there last month. 

Morobe Patrol Post station wallows in a similarly dismal setting. 

From a once-thriving German colonial township, it is now a veritable ghost town. The last policeman stationed there packed up and left years ago, locals told this writer. The police station, though a far sight better than many police stations around the country, is now boarded up and the accommodation is overgrown by bush.

The same applies to the station’s only post office, a research station and other buildings, the exception being its primary school.

That level of deterioration is a familiar sight in many of the other district stations around the province and begs urgent government attention.