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52 posts from March 2010

Carbon trade is 'cargo cult’ says Forest Minister


PERHAPS stung by allegations that it had gone soft on self-proclaimed ‘carbon traders’, the PNG Post-Courier today publicised comments by Forest Minister Belden Namah that “carbon trade is a cargo cult”.

Mr Namah reiterated that at present there is no legal framework for carbon trading in PNG, and there is no guarantee that carbon trade could bring in the tangible development and services.

In a statement that will shock conservationists, however, he said logging will benefit the local people more than carbon trading.

The people of Pangia should be proud their timbers will be used throughout PNG, he said.

However, some landowners expressed disappointment that procedures had not been followed by the National Forest Service and urged their leaders not to sign away their timber rights.

Governor Anderson Agiru supported the project but urged the Forest Service to ensure that landowners to one day become developers in their own area.

Valuable history, but does anyone really care?


New Guinea Days MICHAEL O'CONNOR, the author of New Guinea Days, was a kiap between 1957 and 1966.

There is nothing spectacular about his account, no gut-busting patrols and only a minimum of biff.

He starts at the beginning and finishes at the end. He has a wry sense of humour and a matter-of-fact style which he couples with a good measure of the standard-issue kiap cynicism and disrespect for authority.

A bonus for me was his involvement with the establishment of Olsobip Patrol Post in the Star Mountains, easily one of my favourite places.

It is a slim volume with big margins and large, sometimes poorly reproduced black and white photographs; and a relatively high price.  Apart from one place where the first few lines of a paragraph are inadvertently repeated the editing is good.

O'Connor is a habitual writer on current affairs and I suspect the smooth ride is his doing rather than that of his editor.

From a kiap's perspective the account is ordinary.  From your average Australian's point of view it is probably extraordinary but, as O'Connor points out, they don't care anyway.

I think this ordinariness is what makes the book so readable. I read it in one easy session because I found it hard to put down.

The author was a contemporary of people like Ross Allen, who was my ADC in Mount Hagen and was lost at sea ferrying a yacht from South America after he left PNG, so there is also that sort of interest there.

O'Connor, who tried but apparently failed in his attempts at tertiary study, refers to the public service mandarins and their hired experts as 'the clever people'. Counted among these are the idiots who urged early independence on to PNG.

He has a good word for Paul Hasluck and dabbled in a union campaign for better pay for his PNG peers - he had that peculiar kiap mix of innate conservatism, pragmatism and radicalism.

Another group that attracted his ire was his senior officers, ranging from the lazy ADOs and ADCs who couldn't be bothered patrolling and who left it all to the POs and CPOs, to the doddering and eccentric DCs hidden away in their grass castles in the towns.

There is a nice introduction by that ageing conservative curmudgeon, Peter Ryan, who writes an annoying column for Quadrant. Ryan makes the point that after the likes of Monckton, Humphries, Champion, Hides, McCarthy and Downs no one has written much of interest about the kiaps, who he says (extracting from his Quadrant writings) 'were giants in the earth'.

Ryan goes on to say 'Their story has not been told yet, nor their memorial erected.' I suspect that people like Jim Sinclair might take issue with that view. We all know where the attempt at a memorial has gone.

Ryan's comments and my earlier point about the 'ordinariness' of O'Connor's account beg the question about where it all goes from here.

What are all those old kiaps with their manuscripts mouldering away in bottom drawers going to do with them?

The history they contain, like O'Connor's book, is valuable and needs to be known, but who is going to read it?

New Guinea Days by Michael O'Connor, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009, 165 Pages, $39.95 including postage.