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Papua New Guinea

KEREMA NO LONGER A BACKWATER SOON

DOMESTIC ports will be Kikori and Kerema, says the Governor of Gulf Province, Christopher Haiveta. Mr Haiveta, in a recent interview outlined the changing fortunes of long-forgotten Kerema. The stakes are much higher than they were ever before with the discovery of minerals, oil and gas that will lift the province from the doldrums and be an active player in the country’s economy.

The gulf is like a deep bowl so we could say it’s a pot of gold.

The governor said the port development discussed here is not only a plan; they are fully designed and the Gulf Provincial Government is in the middle of structuring the finance.

There will be an international seaport at Paia. Kerema will be the commercial and administrative hub of the province. Kikori will be another hub because of the Gulf-Southern Highlands Highway which has only 20km to go before it is completed.

The highway will open up a new and better alternative to Highlands-based resource areas as well as an alternative route to Madang and Lae ports.

Paia, 25kms from Kerema, will be an alternative to Port Moresby for resource development in Western and Gulf provinces.

The Ok Tedi mine will find Paia closer than Port Moresby, and Paia will serve Kikori as well as Teredau which will be set up as an industrial centre because, apart from oil and gas, Gulf Province has coal and mineral sands.

The whole idea is to develop the economic base of Gulf Province to address their cash flow problems and to be able to do everything they want.

Most of their people live on the coastal strip, river banks, valleys and mountain ridges. Betelnut is the major crop selling in Port Moresby, Kerema itself or along the roughly 300km Hiritano Highway which begins at Laloki in Central Province and ends at Kerema. The highway is not in a good condition. It takes five to seven hours to reach Kerema.

Seven provinces border Gulf Province. They are Western, Hela, Southern Highlands, Simbu, Morobe and Central.

Mr Haiveta said as unique as this may seem, there are problems such as gun and drug-running.

There are other challenges such as the migration of people. Where project developments had taken place or are about to take place migration of people was causing problem. For instance, the Herowana group from Eastern Highlands were clashing at present with the Pawaia people of Gulf Province.

“I brought this matter to the attention of Parliament but nothing is happening and development cannot be held back. Our shoreline extends 500km to the Great Barrier Reef as far as opposite Ashmore Reef. So the Gulf Provincial Government has the first call for any resource development in that boundary area”.

The province is missing out on GST because prawn operations were carried out from Port Moresby. In a day, 100 tons of ‘trash’ fish were thrown back in the water after prawns were taken. Some people who were able to get their hands on them were selling these so-called trash fish in the streets of Port Moresby. “It’s a wasted resource because only a few people go and get them. The province owns the fish according to law but we cannot access it because there are no harbours to come and give us the fish. So they keep the prawns and throw out the fish”.

Since last year they’ve made three oil and gas discoveries and they included Pasca, Kimu on the border of Western and Gulf and at Barikewa. All had been successfully float-tested. Paska was ready to go but Kimu and Barikewa were waiting for the developer, Oil Search and Kumul Petroleum to tell the Gulf Provincial Government and National Government what they plan to do.

Mr Haiveta said oil and gas reserves are about 20 trillion cubic feet and the plan is to commercialise around six to seven trillion cubic feet in Elk Antelope and Pasca. The rest would still be there. Around 2024 they would be in full production with those two fields contributing to the nation.

Elk Antelope and Pasca straddle each other at different depths. As the crow flies, they are about 120 to 150km north-west of Kerema bordering Simbu and Eastern Highlands. That is how the migration problem with Eastern Highlands is occurring.

The social mapping had been completed and Total, the developer, was yet to submit the identified landowner beneficiaries. The Gulf Provincial Government had helped to register nine Integrated Land Groups with two to go. These would be given to Total to double check and submit to the Department of Petroleum to carry out the clan vetting exercise before recommending the final list of landowners to the minister.

The local level government beneficiaries would be Baimuru LLG as the host of the fields and Ihu LLG, especially Ihu West LLG as the host of the pipeline.

But looking to the immediate future there are two projects in the Gulf which are ready to go. They are half methane gas and half condensate. This project is 95km out at sea. The developer, Twinza, had given its development proposal including Petroleum Development Licnece and Full Field Development Plan to the National Government.

For gas negotiations you need to give the project’s economic model so Treasury and Petroleum can advise on technical details of the development plan which include testing and drilling. All these had been submitted already, said Haiveta.

For Paska, this had not been done so the wait was for the Minister concerned to recognize the Provincial Government and coastal LLGs as the only recognized beneficiaries so negotiations can proceed.

Kerema High School had been selected as seat for the development forum and the Gulf Provincial Government had allocated some money to improve the venue and sort out the issues. The wait is now for the National Government to get back to the Gulf Provincial Government.

Haiaveta sits on the Oil and Gas Ministerial Committee. The National Government co-opted him to be a member because of all the oil and gas developments in his province. His two-man Country Party is in the Government. Haiveta is also a member of the lobby group dealing with rectifying problems of the PNG LNG.

“I want the provincial government and landowners to benefit fully along the whole value chain; meaning from the point of production to sales, during pre construction and during construction and the operation phase.

“Right now my Department (Gulf Province) is focused on building resilience in communities. The total amount of budget we received is up to four months. This is why provincial governments are hamstrung when they rely on the national Government”.

The National Government had done a good job building the Kerema Hospital. But the big issue at the moment was TB. The focus was to introduce the Provincial Health Authority. Meanwhile public servants absenteeism was being trialed from the start of this year with some degree of success where community elders conduct a roll call on public servants daily.

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