By MALUM NALU
IT’S A momentous occasion for the development of tourism in as Governor Ginson Saonu and Tourism Arts and Culture Minister Emil Tammur put pen to paper.
It’s Friday, Sept 7 and Saonu and Tammur are signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop tourism in Morobe.
At the same time, Huon Gulf district is signing an MOU with TPA to develop tourism there.
Indeed a milestone as Morobe, despite all the tourism products it has, has never developed them.
Little wonder Saonu describes tourism in his province as a “sleeping giant”.
Present are TPA chairman and Nawaeb MP Kennedy Wenge, CEO Jerry Agus, Morobe Provincial Administrator Bart Ipambonj, Salamaua LLG president Philemon Tomala and Huon Gulf chief executive officer Moses Wanga, among others.
The National Cultural Commission and National Museum and Art Gallery are also signatories to the MOU.
“Mountains are there, rivers are there, bushes are there, conservation areas are there, tree kangaroos are there, culture is there, Tami Island carvings are there,” Saonu says
“All of these are there but we have not utilised them.
“Tourism is a sleeping giant in Morobe.
“The signing of this MOU will enable us to create tourism products.”
Saonu says now that the MOU has been signed, the onus is on the TPA and Morobe administration to make it work.
“All in all, we are all for it (tourism),” he says.
“After the Wafi-Golpu mine is finished, this will be our only fallback position.
“I believe in tourism, I believe in culture and I believe in the work of the museum.”
Tammur says the MOU binds TPA, NCC and NMAG to work together to develop tourism in Morobe.
“In a way, they all collude to promote tourism,” he says.
“East New Britain and Mline Bay are tourism hubs, as government policy, but that doesn’t stop other provinces because we are all one country.
“Morobe is one province that we are looking into.
“Morobe has so much history.
“We just can’t let it go.
“The mining industry will be gone tomorrow but tourism will be here to stay.
“The young generation and future generations will depend on tourism.”
Agus says tourism is an industry everyone will benefit from.
“Morobe is one of the provinces that is blessed with tourism products, but we haven’t realised that potential,” he says.
“We can’t discuss on what has happed.
“What has happened has happened, but let us start today and move on.
“We are fully committed to working with Morobe and all its districts.”
Huon Gulf also creates a milestone by becoming the first district of Morobe to work with TPA to develop tourism there.
Salamaua LLG president Philemon Tomala signs on behalf of Huon Gulf MP Ross Seymour while Agus signs on behalf of TPA.
Tomala says Huon Gulf, and particularly Salamaua, has so much to offer.
“Huon district and Salamaua have a lot to offer through this tourism arrangement,” he says.
“We have not touched this industry due to various reasons.
“One of the major reasons is we have a law-and-order problem, but there may be ways and means of getting around that.
“This business (tourism) will bring a lot of benefits to our people in the villages.
“We have things like leatherback turtles, waterfalls, good beaches out there, war relics, Black Cat Trail and all that, so there’s so much to be offered.
“On behalf of the Huon district and Salamaua, I’m so happy about this agreement which will pave the way forward for our people.”
The dual signings take place with development of Wafi-Golpu mine being a major agenda in Morobe.
Tomala expresses concern about the plan to dump Wafi-Golpu mine tailings into the Huon Gulf.
He says both Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture and Morobe government should spell out the effects of the tailings on the gulf, where people depend on fishing for their livelihood, as well as tourism.
Huon Gulf is also one of few places in the world where the endangered giant leatherback turtle nests.
“The mining company and Morobe provincial government say it is safe to get this waste into the sea,” Tomala says.
“From experiences we have seen, like Panguna mine and others, the people out there still have questions in their minds as to how safe the waste is, going onto the sea.
“This is because our people’s livelihood is in the sea.
“They go fishing to sustain their day-to-day living, but with this thing coming, we have a lot of questions; whether it is safe for marine life or not.
“With these questions, we are organising a meeting between Wafi-Golpu officers and Salamaua LLG leaders on Sept 29.
“This is so that the company can get down to the people and tell them whether it is safe.
“This is because me, as a leader, I am not sure whether it is safe for marine life or not.
“Let the company go down and tell them, so they can tell the rest of the people, whether it is safe or not.
“That is still the question.”
Meantime, it’s all systems go for tourism in Morobe.
By MALUM NALU