By ERIC PIET
EVER since the departure of the colonial administration from our shores following independence, most of the established infrastructure in the remote parts of the country began to fall apart and service delivery took on a snail’s pace or even ceased completely.
Development has not been even across PNG. Some places progressed very much with time, whilst others took on a downhill slide and a wide gap now exist between them. This has partly to do with the challenges posed by natural elements that got in the way of service delivery so as human factors of deliberate negligence, mismanagement and cronyism by people in authority with the use of development funds over the years, or both.
Sadly that is a reality that has stalled the progress for those places.
Kikori in Gulf, better known simply by the Holie Maea hit Kerema Yu yet kam na lukim (come see for yourself), is one such remote district in PNG where the stagnation in physical infrastructure development took its toll.
Situated in the Gulf of Papua, Kikori has an estimated population of 51,000 and its geography is made up of mountains, lowland river deltas and grassland floodplains. The mighty Kikori, Turama, Vailala and Purari Rivers, and the myriad other smaller rivers all meet the sea known as the Papuan Gulf. The district, consisting of four local level government councils (East Kikori, West Kikori, Baimuru and Ihu) is virtually surrounded by intricate river system and receives one of the highest annual rainfalls in the country (5,840 mm). Kikori also boasts rich biodiversity that is a treasure to nature lovers.
The status quo of Kikori should not be seen or accepted as permanent – the reality is that Kikori had been a hibernating giant. Now the wind of change has already set in and the sails that have been for so long in doldrums have been spread and fixed on the mast to finally keep the ship sailing to what it was best preserved for. Kikori is poised for change.
You ask, what then has Kikori to offer that all would want to set foot on that land, which by the way now seems unappealing to any common person?
Let us meet the captain and co-captain of mv Kikori who are navigating the currents of the mighty Turama, Kikori, and Purari Rivers. They are Soroi Marepo Eoe, who is the MP for Kikori Open and Minister for Community Development, Youth and Religion, and Kikori District Development Authority chief executive officer Tars Sauka. They are working in unison to deliver for their people what has been denied by others before them.
Eoe and Sauka both contested the Kikori Open seat in 2017, which Eoe won. He would have overlooked Sauka in his pick for a CEO but did not. As a mature leader, he discerned that his people had been victimised by politicking in the past so now was time for a new direction. They are now together putting the interests of the people first.
The above is a prelude to the gist of this article which is about what is and would soon happen in Kikori and the trickling benefits to PNG from some milestone and impact development projects.
Whilst the major impact projects are forthcoming, the Kikori District Development Authority (KDDA) has taken an initial step to kick-start the development and service delivery vibe in the district by prioritising electricity and accessibility to services through the provision of water transport kits.
According to Sauka, Kikori has been without electricity for nearly 20 years. The absence of this essential utility meant that the district remained in stagnation or slipped backwards.
“Power means everything – the powering of computers, internet, lights, and more. District officials couldn’t do anything in Kikori, thereby finding themselves in Port Moresby and use a lot of money here,” the CEO said.
MP Eoe said he wanted all district functions to be in Kikori so not more money is squandered in Port Moresby.
Three large generators (110KVA and two 88KVA) procured at the cost of K1.5 million would be shortly installed by an electrical contractor in Kikori, Ihu and Baimuru stations.
And, as earlier stated, the district being water logged, means water transport is an important asset for the people there in the interim to access services such as health, education and markets in Kerema town and Port Moresby. The KDDA has purchased and distributed 23 banana boats with 40 horsepower engines to all tribal groups in the district.
Community development centre
Ever heard of a district community development centre? This is a flagship development project which integrates the Government’s focus to bridge service delivery to the rural masses. It is a project undertaken by the Department for Community Development, Youth and Religion for which Kikori MP Eoe is responsible as minister.
Its purpose is to address the issues on gender-based violence (GBV), sorcery-related violence, illiteracy, counselling, etc., at the district level.
The centre consists of two buildings – the office and the safe or transit home. The office building will have desks for women and children, youth, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, churches and NGOs. The multi-purpose conference hall in the office building will host meetings for LLG leaders, district management teams, NGOs/CBOs, volunteers, church leaders and women’s groups.
The transit home would be used as a temporary shelter for GBV victims, sorcery-related violence victims, displaced and vulnerable communities and disaster affected populations. According to department secretary Anna Solomon, the DCDCs in the country would cost K5 million each to build and the cost would be shared between the National Government and development partners (50 per cent), provincial government (25 per cent) and districts themselves (25 per cent). So for Kikori, the National Government and Gulf government would chip-in the 75 per cent cost to supplement the KDDAs 25 per cent portion for this project this year.
Eight pilot districts have signed the MOAs for construction of DCDCs. They include Kikori (Gulf), Yangoru-Sausia (ESP), Ialibu-Pangia (SHP), Finschhafen (Morobe), with Bialla (WNB), Imbonggu (SHP) and Gazelle (ENB) having done their Sanapim Post ceremonies already to start work on.
Ihu special economic zone
In the next three to four years, Orokolo Bay in Ihu, Kikori, would be transformed into a modern city of its own. The Government through the Department of Commerce and Industry, National Planning and Monitoring, Lands Department and the KDDA are together undertaking a special economic zone impact project which, when completed, would have five international parks/zones. These include a free trade zone, a petroleum park, an industrial zone, a technology park, government and admin zone plus the Kikori seaport and international airport.
With positive government support for this major project coupled with the recent signing of the Papua LNG, which Kikori will host, reality for the Ihu SEZ is nigh.
Papua LNG Project
The US$13 billion (K43 billion) Papua LNG, the country’s second, sets yet another benchmark try that would become tomorrow’s history when the milestone project agreement became official on April 9, 2019. The French energy giant, Total SA, the developer penned the agreement with our Government at Government House in Konedobu, making way for a 25-year project life. Construction will begin in 2021 and the first cargo is scheduled for 2024.
Kikori District currently hosts 80 per cent (18 trillion cubic feet -TCF) of discovered gas reserves in PNG and when that goes into production, it would raise the country’s GDP, increase job opportunities and other forms of development in landowner benefits.
The construction phase to deliver oil and gas through a conditioning plant, pipeline and two 2.75 million-tonnes-per-annum trains will likely create 10,000 jobs over five years and boost local businesses.
The project signing has indeed brought much hope for Gulf children as it would directly or indirectly raise their living standards and make their long term life goals become a reality.
Making history on April 9, 2019, when the Government and developer Total SA put pen to paper to develop the gas reserves in Gulf, was four-year-old McLaren Sauka. The youngster from Faia Village in Kikori had asked his father Tars – Kikori DDA CEO – to take him to witness the signing so that the event would remain with him as he grows with the project.
More so, McLaren was a Gulf children’s representative at the signing.
“When I grow up, I will cherish this history of mine, as a child from Gulf who dreams of becoming a pilot one day. I know that that would happen for me and for many of my fellow Gulf children as the project benefits would make it possible,” McLaren said.
“On behalf of Gulf children, I want to thank the Government and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Total SA and other companies, and our Gulf government for the fruitful discussions on the project.
“And my special thank you to my local MP (uncle) Minister Soroi Eoe, for being our voice.”
I was blown away by his comments that day when I asked him to speak after speaking to his father.
He is a visionary little fellow and I have no doubt he will become an aircraft pilot and join his brother in the aviation industry, who is currently studying in the Philippines to become an aircraft engineer.
The young Sauka wants to emulate the steps of their late pilot uncle, Roydon Sauka, who with Captain Jannie Moala and 13 passengers, died in a plane crash at Kokoda on Aug 11, 2009.
All in all, from the backwaters, Kikori and indeed Gulf will be in the frontline soon when work on the Papua LNG projectstarts.