Thieves make off with Tari airport fence, posts

National, Normal


THE Tari airport’s security fence in Southern Highlands prvovince has been removed by thieves for its steel posts and wire.
The “fenceless” airport is now posing a danger to passengers and aircraft.
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) source yesterday confirmed that about 3,800m of wire and steel frames of the 1,600m-long airstrip were ripped off under the cover of the night.
The source, who requested anonymity, said only 600m of the entire fence remained intact around the airport, and half of that was damaged.
The source said locals were also taking short-cuts across the airport to reach Tari town or get to Tari Hospital and villages on the eastern side of the airport.
Police said there were about eight short cuts across the airport and people, including children, and animals ran freely on the tarmac.
“Broken bottles, sticks, rocks and other objects strewn on the runway are very dangerous to aircraft when landing and taking off,” the source said.
The CAA source said international contractor Curtain Brothers (PNG) Ltd based in Tari had on many occasions used their heavy-roller machine to maintain the surface of the runway on a “goodwill” basis while former Tari mayor and businessman George Tagobe had over the years used his private tractor-slasher to cut the tall grass at the runway.
“The airport, despite being busy with the coming multi-billion-kina PNG LNG gas project, has never received any major rehabilitation or maintenance fund from the National Government.
“The provincial government only provided K200,000 to Curtain Brothers in 2008 to carry out urgent maintenance work on the surface of the airport after national flag carrier Air Niugini decided to  cancel its Tari flights due safety,” the source said.
Port Moresby-based CAA and Air Niugini management could not be contacted for comments.