PNGSDP hands over its assets to the people of Western Province | Pacific Beat

PNGSDP hands over its assets to the people of Western Province

PNGSDP hands over its assets to the people of Western Province

Updated 10 February 2014, 19:20 AEDT

The people affected by Papua New Guinea's Ok Tedi mine have gained direct control of key assets created by the mine's wealth, for the first time.

On Friday, Sir Mekere Morauta, Chairman of the PNG Sustainable Development Program handed over million's of dollars worth assets to mine affected communities and to the government of Western Province.

It is part of the continuing fall-out from the PNG government decision to take over the Ok Tedi mine.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Martyn Namorong, Western Province Blogger who has worked for both Ok Tedi Mining Ltd and the PNG Sustainable Development Program

GARRETT: When the PNG government took control of the giant Ok Tedi copper mine in it starved the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program, until then Ok Tedi's biggest shareholder, of income.

PNGSDP was forced to shed the vast majority of its close to 80 staff.

Now, unable to continue its work as a development agency working on behalf of the people of Western Province, it has been forced to handover its assets.

PNGSDP still has legal action pending challenging the government takeover but in a statement Chairman Sir Mekere Morauta said he was aware of the desperate need for development to continue in Western Province and so wanted to gift the assets to the people in an orderly and planned way so they do not go to waste.

The mine area communties take control of almost 6 million dollars worth of housing in the Star mountains town of Tabubil.

PNGSDP's 25 per cent share in the Ok Tedi Developoment Foundation goes to the wider group affected by the mine - more than 100,000 people living in 156 villages.

PNG blogger Martyn Namorong who is from Western province applauds the move.

NAMORONG: It was the right thing to do. Those assets in the end belong to the people of western province and had to be transferred over otherwise they deteriorate without funding coming to PNGSDP.

GARRETT: Martyn Namorong says the community control of the 25 per cent stake or one share in the Ok Tedi Development Foundation (or OTDF), is particularly significant.

NAMORONG: It will mean communities will have direct board representation on OTDF whereas previously they only had associated directors on the board of the Ok Tedi Development Foundation. That will also have an impact on decisions that are being made on development programs throughout the Fly River communities.

GARRETT: Do the communities have the resources they need to get the advice they need to run these institutions effectively?

NAMORONG: Yes, they do have money in their trust funds. They can get the right people. The interesting thing has been the transfer of one share in OTDF, which means the communities will now have a director on OTDF and have a direct say in the application of their resources. They do have the financial capacity to get the experts that are necessary to run those projects. So if it is done properly it should work out well for those communities.

GARRETT: Control over the biggest asset PNGSDP's 100 per cent equity in Western Power - which provides mobile phone and television transmission, as well as electricty - was given to the Western Province government.

In recent months blackouts have become more frequent and and Western Power's ambitious expansion plans have been on hold.

In his acceptance speech, Western Province Governor Ati Wobiro promised to use the company to extend electricity supplies across the province.

Sir Mekere Morauta says there is ample income from the Ok Tedi mine for all the projects PNGSDP to continue but that may not happen, especially with the Western Province government short on staff and expertise.

Five million dollars has been spent by PNGSDP on design and equipment for a water and sewerage system for the people on Daru Isalnd and piles have been laid for the Tawao'o Point wharf.

Martyn Namorong says the continuation of the water and sewerage project is particularly important.

There is money in the Western province dividend trust fund, there is hundreds of millions there that the provincial government can apply for the benefit of the people of Western province.

GARRETT: Why is that water and sewerage program so important?

NAMORONG: Around 2010-11 there was a cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea and the impacts were worse around daru because at the moment there is a night-soil waste disposal system. Basically, human waste is collected in buckets and then transferred out. There is no proper sewerage. The water supply is iregularly, irregular. we have about one hour of the water being turned on on the island. People collect the water and then for the rest people don't have water going to the island. So it creates a huge public health risk. That is a very vital project that needs to get off the ground to improve the quality of life of the people of Daru island.

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