Urban planning badly needed

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday July 4th, 2013

 WHAT a mishmash our cities and towns have become today. 

There would appear to be no planning at all these days when it comes to establishing or extending new urban development.  

Take our national capital city as an example. It’s a mess absolutely. Need we remind you about the daily bumper–to-bumper traffic jams caused by dirty, overloaded vehicles spewing deadly carbon monoxide? 

Port Moresby has more cars and less well planned roads to cater for its needs now and in the next 40 years. We need to have forethought to plan for our future needs. 

Let’s look down memory lane and at how orderly and neat Port Moresby and environs were, for example, the Papua New Guinea Defense Force Taurama Barracks and the Goldie River one on the banks of the river with the same name along Hiritano Highway. set up in a beautiful and orderly way. 

Before we achieved political independence from Australia, Port Moresby, even from its pioneering days, was planned. There was a department that planned for any growth in the township.  The Planning Department working closely with Lands and Physical Planning, and Works Department would draw up the city into zones for residential, light industrial, business, recreational and even reserved land.

Developers had to adhere strictly to zones. Applications to rezone a certain area into another zone took a lengthy process and much justification. Mostly, such applications would be rejected out of hand.

In yester-years, attached to the above was the Port Moresby Town Advisory Council working closely with the administration, discussing issues such as town beautification and problems stemming from parking areas, public toilet facilities, street names, loading zones and film censorship board. 

The council discussed such agenda items and recommended to appropriate government and private bodies for action. 

The colonial administration had been criticised for its crowded Konedobu headquarters for the simple reason that it wasn’t planned at all. Offices had just mushroomed any time and any where; and planned buildings such as the police headquarters and the Department of Information and Extension Services building in Spring Garden road were built – only to be abandoned several years after completion for the great move to the central Waigani area.  

Konedobu was then a muddled higgledy-piggledy mesh of offices and at most times difficult to identify and locate particular offices.  

As the township grew the additional suburbs of Boroko were well planned by architects and erected in particular portions or areas designated, for example:

  • Residential area – for the building of houses and flats and apartment, etc;
  • Recreation area – for the erection of parks and gardens and sporting ovals and courts;
  • Industrial zone – where commerce and trade business companies set up offices and factories.

Port Moresby is so cramped today there is a rush to set up new businesses for the mining industry, as well as spin-off ones. In the accommodation sector hotels, motels, guest houses,  lodges, inns are springing up all over Port Moresby and the folks from our rural areas are pouring in every week to take in their share of life in the big city but with nothing to compare with the easy and healthy lifestyle they had left to migrate into Port Moresby.  

They have to eat to survive. They need money badly so they can venture into liklik businesses like tucker boxes and trade stores. 

Most are literally street vendors – standing, squatting and sitting cross-legged come rain or shine in the street selling things like buai and hundreds of cheap goods flooding into the country from China for example. 

With this unplanned development comes more overcrowding and the chances of sharing goods and services within our urban and rural areas of our country grows slimmer, more so in Port Moresby.  

Remember that Port Moresby was planned for a small sub-urban town of 40,000 people. Today that number has swelled to well over 300,000 and some suggest it is closer to half a million.

It is no wonder everything is congested and services from water to electricity fail every so often.

Port Moresby is not alone in this dilemma. Lack of planning, it would appear, is a national malaise.