Monday, December 31, 2012

The changing face of Lae

There is little control of the current business boom in Lae, writes MALUM NALU

THE changes taking place now in Lae, Morobe province, are quite phenomenal, as I found out when I was back home from December 13-16 to attend the 2012 Ahi Festival.
Lae's new landmark taking shape along 2nd Street.-All pictures by MALUM NALU

Lae is slowly, but steadily, getting back its "garden city of Papua New Guinea" tag, its infamous potholes are disappearing, and business is booming.
Crime and social problems, however, infest this garden of good and evil.
Concrete roads of 7th Street.

The amount of money pouring into Lae as a direct result of major projects such as the PNG LNG project, Hidden Valley mine, Wafi-Golpu mine, Ramu Agri Industries, Lae Port Tidal Basin, new fish canneries at Malahang, and several others in Morobe, Madang and the five Highlands provinces means that the city is in for a bonanza.
The Lae Port is near saturation point, with major stevedoring company, Riback, now using the old Lae Airport as its container yard.
Riback Stevedores' container yard at the old airport.

New buildings are going up everywhere, the recently-concreted roads are chock-a-block with brand-new vehicles, and there is an air of optimism in just about everyone I talked to.
Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry, however, believes that there is little control of the current business boom in Lae at the moment.
Chamber president Alan McLay said this when I asked him to comment on the boom in business in Lae brought about by all the economic developments.
Coronation Drive, Top Town.

"The so called 'business boom' in Lae is progressing at the moment to meet the demands," he said.
"The LNG project has certainly meant more transport and logistics type operations and we have seen major developments of these industries along the Nadzab corridor in recent years.
"The government's inability to provide adequate land for development in Lae has meant that companies have directly negotiated land with local communities and individuals in this area, to meet the demands.
Coronation Drive, Top Town.

"Our concern is that this recent development has proceeded unplanned, which brings forth a whole range of issues."
McLay said these issues included:
•All of this development has taken place beyond the current city boundaries, which means that it is under the jurisdiction of the rural local level governments (LLGs), which do not provide sanitation and garbage, and other services to businesses;
Riback Stevedores' container yard at the old airport.
Huon Road.

•The unplanned development means that there is no allocation of land for schools, recreation parks, etc; and
•There is no protection for the landowner for unscrupulous dealings, and con artists who will rob them and their families of their future inheritance.
"The LCCI believes that there must be an urban development plan for the Lae Urban area," he said.
The LCCI also expressed concern at the" near dictatorial control" of the Lae Roads development by contractors.
7th Street.

It also wants to see the Lae Urban Local Level Government (LULLG) honor its agreement to maintain roads in the city.
McLay said the control of roads by contractors was leading to a whole range of detrimental issues, including:
Potholes along Malaita Street.

•Unannounced and unnecessary lengthy closure of roads for reconstruction which has lead to congestion;
•Unnecessary cutting of trees for ease of construction which affects not only the beauty of the city but also relief from the hot sun;
•Pedestrian crossings in wrong and dangerous locations;
•Road marking in wrong and inappropriate paint which is difficult to see and quickly wears off; and
•Lack of erection of appropriate and easy-to-see street signs.
"The LCCI would like the LULLG to make an effort to honor its agreement to maintain the roads in the city, especially the industrial roads that were graciously rehabilitated by AusAID over a decade ago and the residential road," McLay said.
7th Street.

"It would be wonderful to have the old 'pothole gangs' back on the roads, attacking the potholes before they develop into major impediments to the traffic," he said.
"We note that the first recommendation of the report on the Lae City Roads Rehabilitation Project (LCRRP) was for the establishment of a provincial management unit (PMU).
Drive down the hill from Top Town.
7th Street.

"We would like to see the PMU established, which would consist of local stakeholders, to manage the Lae roads project, to give the roadworks that vital Local and professional input, that is sadly missing from the project at the moment. "
McLay said the chamber was pleased to see work recommencing on Lae roads after the projected was halted for investigation last year.
"We are pleased to see the work re-commencing on the Lae Roads under the Lae Roads Rehabilitation Project that was halted after the investigation last year," he said.
"We are happy to see a further K100 million allocated in the 2013 budget, which should see the completion of the major trunk roads in the city.
" The benefits of a good roads system to business is enormous : punctuality of staff and less dust related diseases  equals  less absenteeism; speedier vehicle movement  equals less delivery time; less vehicle maintenance and replacements; less crime due to slowed down vehicles, etc."
Crime and social problems, however, infest this garden of good and evil, and during my four days there, there was a series of armed hold-ups around town and a major ethnic conflict at the notorious Bumbu Settlement between Sepiks and Morobeans.
Bumbu River along Butibam Road.

The escalating law and order problem in Lae, especially ethnic clashes in urban settlements, irks McLay.
"The overflowing settlements and the resulting clashes is a major concern, which is taking so much time and effort by the under -strength and underequipped police, who have found they are left wanting when addressing the normal crimes in the city," he said.

"The squatter problem has been allowed to develop unchecked by the previous politicians and administration and now it has become a major issue.
"The police alone cannot handle this problem as they are not trained to handle social problems - the politicians and administration must find a way to relieve tensions in the settlements.
"The police must be equipped better to combat crime, which is having an enormous upsurge at the moment.
Coronation Drive, Top Town.

"We understand the Morobe Governor has promised a good relief package to the police.
"Now the police headquarters must look at increasing the numbers of police and build up their equipment.
"Good business relies on a low crime rate, which is currently at an unacceptable high."
McLay suggested:
•Morobe Governor Kelly Naru and Lae MP Loujaya Toni must look at political solutions to decrease the ethnic tensions and the crime and
•Local authorities must relax fees and license regulations, to make the process simple and effective, so that business can operate in a less-bureaucratic system.
We hope and pray for a prosperous and peaceful Lae in 2013 and beyond.
Coronation Drive.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:22 PM

    Very informative and helpful. Thanks for writing it.