By ADRIAN MATHIAS
NORTH Fly district in Western is the host of the country’s giant Ok TediMine but lacks critical transport infrastructure mainly a road network to this day.
Most parts of the district can only be reached by air, small crafts (dinghies and outboard motor canoes) or by foot.
The Kiunga to Tabubil highway which runs through the Ningerum station is the only functioning road in the district.
It was built by the Ok Tedi Mine for its convenience to transport essential cargoes and supplies necessary for its operations from the Fly River port ofKiunga up to its mining township of Tabubil in the Star Mountains.
Imagine if there had been no Ok Tedi Mine.Definitely there would be no road between Kiunga and Tabubil and those who are residing along the road corridors today and enjoying the ease of transportation, would have have struggled to this day, just like their friends from Olsobip or Nomad.
A road’sprimary role is theease of transportation,ensuring accessibility and enabling easy flow of goods and services, but it is also a key to driving other developments.
But sadly, this fact was overlooked for decades by past governments and administrations in the province.
As a result, remote local level government areas like Nomad, Olsobip and parts of Ningerum (towards the Indonesia border) and Kiunga Rural, which had served as main service centres during the Australian colonial administration died out literally.
For example, Olsobiphad a police post, banking agency, postal and regular airservices and officers in charge or kiaps permanently based there running the sub-district before but when you go there today, you find nothing except the school and health centre operating in rundown facilities with few local public servants struggling to serve the growing population.
A once thriving government station, well-kept by hard working locallabourers, is now overgrown by shrubs and become home to creepy-crawlies.
This is happening whilebillions of kina are generated through Ok Tedi Mine from its copper, gold and silver exports for the national coffers.
Ok Tedi Mine has been the backbone of the country after the collapse of the Panguna Mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainvile due to the civil conflict.
One may ask why in a district or province whose traditional land plays host to the multi-billion kina Ok Tedi project remains undeveloped in terms of tangible infrastructure such as road links.
There are many reasons for the hardships forced upon people in a resource-rich province like ours.
Now is not the time, however, for a needless blame game.
What has happened in the past taught us an important life lesson not to mess around this time and start recreating our future using available resources we have today before it’s too late.
North Fly MP James Donald and his district development authority havetherefore committed three quarters or 75 per cent of the district’s funding to building roads.
This is to ensure we are starting off somewhere to bring back the confidence and trust that our people have long lost in our political leadership and restore hope.
In June, Donald and his DDA purchased a bulldozer and an excavator, to commence work on the Alice Pit (Ningerum) to Yetetkun (in Indonesia) road.
Donald, after seeing remarkable progress so far on this road project, said Western was never late but has hope and would get there.
He gave this assurance knowing well that his people have seen very little in terms of physical infrastructure development in the province.
He was updating his people on Facebookon the progress of recently launched road link to Indonesia.
He said it was great to see our friends from Republic of Indonesia cooperating well with us.
“An instruction from their headquarters in Jakarta has deployed a team of surveyors into the border to assist in ensuring the road link connects at the right location,” Donald said.
He said the pilot track would reach the border before December 2018.
Donald thanked his colleague MP BenedictusTembunop of Boven Digul district of Indonesia for responding positively and accepting the bilateral arrangement to connect Western by road with Papua Province of Indonesia.
He also extended his gratitude to local people from both sides of the border for taking ownership of the project and cooperating with leaders like himself, ward councilors and NingerumLLG president, KawukKonmop.
“Overall, let our relationship that existed traditionally continue to strengthen each day and soon it will be further solidified,” he said.
As of Oct 31, 2018, the flags of PNG and Indonesia were flying on each side of the border monument MM8.2 signifying common interest and cooperation to have the road complete.
About 4km were done so far of the total 65km road link.
This was two weeks after an official openinglast Thursday (Oct 16).
The launching was held at AlicepitBirimkamba waterfront in the NingerumLLG area.
Donald, while addressing his people at the launch, said this road project would encourage economic activity and trade across the border regions and Western.
He said this was a key piece of infrastructure that would relieve the local population of high costs of doing business, including travel and freight expenses from Port Moresby.
He said it was about finding the shortest and cheapest option for his people to access basic goods and services without much difficulty and he believes his district would transform through this road project that would link them to the more advanced border towns and cities in Indonesia.
“We cannot continue to conduct business with Port Moresby because it’s too far and expensive. Let’s make our life easier by simply putting a road across,” Donald said.
- Adrian Mathias is a freelance journalist.