Monday, November 24, 2014

Passing of Noel Bluett

Many people in Papua New Guinea will be sad to learn that Noel Bluett, a man with many strong connections to this country, passed away on Friday, November 21,  in Cairns.
The late Noel Bluett, executive officer of Coffee Marketing Board from 1965-1971.

Noel Bluett with Coffee Board member Salain Sakaen and chairman Lloyd Hurrell.
Many of his family members are still resident in Papua New Guinea and he is fondly remembered by all the people, both local and expat who associated with him during the twenty seven years he spent in the country. 
Bluett was appointed as the first Executive Officer of the Coffee Marketing Board established in 1964 to regulate and create an orderly marketing system for the rapidly expanding industry.   
The exponential growth of plantings and export figures of the industry   were so outstanding the crop became known as ‘New Guinea Gold’.
Very few crops or countries in the world can claim to have turned subsistence farmers into wealthy men in such a short time.
The right climate and soil, the right altitudes, the skilled highland gardeners, the absence of pests or insects that attack coffee crops in other tropical areas plus the research carried out by the Agricultural Experimental Station in Aiyura to develop the particular strains of coffee suitable for the Highlands brought together a combination of factors that amazed everyone involved in the development of the industry.
 For example in 1962 - 3,820 tons of coffee was exported overseas but by 1965 the export figures reached, 9,471 - figures of unprecedented growth. 
In February when Noel arrived to take up the position of first Executive Officer,   the Board members consisted of four Europeans: Lloyd Hurrell, Dick Hagon, and David Falconer who were familiar with the problems of the industry and owned well-established plantations and a Government officer, Mr Conroy, experienced in the administration of marketing crops in Papua and New Guinea. 
 The two local men on the Board were Bono Azanifa and   Salain Sakaen, also growers who managed their own coffee plantations.
However, none of these men had any experience in establishing a marketing board and relied on their Executive Officer to set the process in motion.
 Fortunately they had chosen the right man for the job because Noel was a qualified Public Accountant and Chartered Company Secretary with creative abilities that enabled him to suggest ways to stimulate the marking process.
He had honed consultative skills and knowledge of conflict resolution which allowed him to work with the Board and the growers for the benefit of all concerned.
The Board established a levy on all coffee exported collected through branches of the Commonwealth Bank which enabled them to be financially independent while the export control powers were administered through the Executive Officer.
 During his years as Executive Officer, Noel regularly travelled around the country meeting growers and exporters listening to their concerns in order to establish smooth functioning processes for their mutual benefit. 
 Initially the Board was located in the building belonging to the Farmers and Settlers Association in the centre of town and the Executive Officer and his family of five children lived in an apartment on the first floor of the building.
After two years new offices and a house for the Executive Officer, both of which belonged   to the Board, were erected in West Goroka.
After six years of service to the Coffee Board, Noel changed positions to work directly in coffee exporting for New Guinea Brokers, a company established by the Collins and Leahy families.
 In 1973 Noel and his family re-located to Lae where he established his own commodity exporting company, Anisa Commodity Traders, and lived with his family in Lae for the next 20 years.
During the years Noel lived in New Guinea, he assisted Baha’i communities to develop as the Faith expanded into every province in the country and served for nine years as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Papua New Guinea.
He had a great love for the people of this country and will be sadly missed by his friends and all the members of his family who still live here.

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