Garnaut TV response ‘disproportionate’
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Locals ‘know nothing’ about Purari scheme

AN AUSTRALIAN newspaper report says that people of the Purari River region in PNG, which could be dammed to provide hydroelectricity to Queensland, know nothing about the proposal and have not been contacted by its proponents.

The report quotes Dr Laevai Neuendorf, who says he is “chief” of the Hamora Ipi clan but who is a resident of Queensland, saying the local people do not want the project to be built on “sacred ancestral lands”.

He said the scheme would marginalise his people, whose land covers about 25,000 hectares, and will make them even poorer.

Last week Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced plans for Origin Energy to partner a PNG company to produce 1800 megawatts of power from the Purari River.

Queensland would be the major customer, with electricity brought by undersea cable to Weipa, Mt Isa and Townsville.

Dr Neuendorf, originally from PNG, said he feared for the economic impacts in the Purari area and said the local people had no idea of what was going on.

“They were quite shocked about it,” he said. “It really annoys me. They wouldn’t be allowed to dam a river like that in Queensland.”

Origin project manager Charles Nieuwoudt said the dam would impact on few people and bring many positives. Studies had started and locals at the nearby village of Wabo supported it, he claimed.

“He can’t have a balanced opinion until he hears about the project. It’s a bit disappointing,” he said.

But Dr Neuendorf said about 50,000 people lived in the coastal and delta regions of the Purari, and only 800-900 at the project site. “If the hydro plan goes ahead without due diligence the Purari will die, “ he said.

Spotter: Murray Bladwell

Source: ‘Cold water on hydro plan’ by Brian Williams, Brisbane Courier-Mail, 23 September 2010


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Peter Sandery

Without wanting to in any way detract from the comments posted on this issue so far I would just like to add that the main reason why the Purari Hydro Scheme did not get off the ground in the early/mid 1970's was because it did not stack up economically with a project in South America - Brazil, I think - which got the gig. Whilst the late Roy Evara was certainly involved, the people of Pawai'ia as I recall were fairly vocal ,about the project as well.

Gabriella Evara

Lydia Kailap and everyone concerned here. If you have any issues of concerned regarding the SABL please feel free to discuss with PDA Executives.

They are not dumb and selfish as many would think. So far they have won many court battles. Many of its members have personal testimonies that will bring you to tears you should all really know your facts right. Some have sacrificed for the good of all,

But I understand why many would criticise my father Mr Roy Evara: he is a leader and a real son of Baimuru. As his daughter I am very proud to proclaim that and as a child from Baimuru I will still support where necessary with what ever resources I have.

What about all you educated elites of Baimuru? What are you doing for Baimuru?

Gabriella Evara

The people of Baimuru where not ready for a Hydro Dam to be built in Baimuru that is why Mr. Evara (my Father) very vocal young UPNG Political science student and his action group of elite locals stopped the damming of the Purari river in the 1970s.

Locals where not educated and aware of its implications on their livelihood and the environment. Locals where not properly made aware of the project and its purpose.

The Government of today and tomorrow and Companies who what to do business in Baimuru must educate our People. Also the people of Baimuru need to me able to come in as an Educated Business Partners to be able to gain maximum benefits not only for today's generation but also for the future generations.

I can say now we have many educated locals who can make well informed decisions. The SABL is an added advantage for our locals to be able to be business partners in the development of their land rather than just mere spectators.

They need to be made more aware of the importance and purpose of the SABL. Damming is not the only development of concern, there is so much to be concerned for in development areas of Health and Education, Law and Order, Infrastructure Development and Transport,Environment and conservation, Tourism and Hospitality, Business Trade and the list goes on.

I suggest those who have concerns set a meeting with Purari Development Association Inc.(PDA) Executives to understand fully what it represents and protects.

You cannot fight for something if you do not know your history and if you do not know what you are fighting for. Some of you have just woken up from a big sleep and do not know the real history of PDA and its development over the years.

While you have been sleeping some of of your tribes men and women have been fighting for your rights without fear of favour all for who "The People of Baimuru now and for the future".

And also note that the SABL will not be sold to Foreign companies it belongs to the tribes of Baimuru and their children.

John Morris

I was the surveyor for Comalco who carried out the final survey for the Purari Hydro-electric Scheme in 1958-60. I surveyed the dam site and also the extent of the design top water level, so I believe I have a good appreciation of the population that would be affected at that period. Upstream of the dam wall there was only one Pewain village just downstream of Hathor Gorge and no known villages inland from the river.

Other than a period during the filling of the storage the normal river flow will be maintained. River flow records were taken all during th 1950s and well into the 1960s and rainfall in the catchment is about 10 metres each year so this is the reason the dam is such an attractive proposition.

From many of the previous comments it appears that many of the comments are from people not really aware of the area involved. Idia loaloa lasi ini gabuna.

Michael Dom

What about that Queensland businessman who had an interest in piping water from PNG to Australia?

Any relatedness in these issues? Any information from Attituders?

Iga Kinau

There has been a lot of talk about Purari but how well will its people be recognised. What about Maiari Va'ara?

Karen Evara

Change is inevitable. The opportunity costs that go with it should be and can be managed so that the greatest benefit for the people of Purari,their future generation, the environment etc is taken into consideration.

That takes consultation with all parties that survive and live in the Purari Delta. PDA was created to bridge the people and the developers and to empower, inform and educate the tribes that live in the Purari basin.It is still a great cause.

I speak out because I have heard all your chiefs speak out (including Albert Kerut's) come to my father's house and speak about their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children and their future and the changes that modernisation will bring.

Even at subsistance level they understood that change was inevitable.It will be challenging and therefore all parties must be consulted through the phases of development of any kind.

The traditional land stories bridge all purari people from what the chiefs have been saying. We should all step into the future together.

Nalau Bingeding

I have done some desktop assessments and these are some of the effects of the proposed Purari Hydropower Dam.

It will flood between 2 - 3 thousand hectares of forested land and emit more than 9 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over time (methane gas will be released due to rotting vegetable matter under the flooded area - I have already converted it to carbon dioxide equivalent).

There will be loss of biodiversity in the area to be flooded, and the wetland ecosystems that lie below Wabo Station right down to the Gulf of Papua will be adversely affected.

The adverse impact of the dam on fisheries in the Gulf of Papua and the ecosystems that lie below the dam are unknown and could be astronomical.

We need to do a comprehensive study to document the adverse impacts of the dam on the fragile wetland ecosystems below the dam.

Gabriella Evara

Please note that Purari Development Association Inc & its SABL Land Title belongs to the people of Baimuru.

It will not be bought or sold to foreign companies or government entities.

It was obtained to empower the people of Baimuru when it comes to economic resource development of the land. We don't want foreign companies bullying our people.

All landowners deserve a fair deal & the issue of land ownership in Baimuru is a dead issue.

The competent court of PNG has given it to the Lare tribe on behalf of all its sister tribes in Baimuru.

Tanya Zeriga Alone

It is happening now. Tonight EMTV - the PM back from the meeting in Australia announced that plans are underway for the the dam to be built.

This is a death sentence for life in the Purari basin.

Phil Fitzpatrick

You might like to clarify something, Alberts. I did some social mapping in the area in 2001. We were told the people in the area are correctly called Goeheae, rendered roughly as Goi'hengai.

Earlier reports around 1950 refer to them as Pawaia. This is the name of an early village south of the present Poroi village.

The name of the village seems to have been adopted by early government officers and used to describe the people.

This distinction may be why references to Pawaia people do not appear in the earliest reports of patrols, especially those coming in from the north or northwest.

Alberts Kerut

There are two things mentioned here that has prompted me to place my comments. Firstly you must know that I am a Pawaian.

The Pawaia tribe is the host of the Elk/Antelope Project and the proposed Purari River Hydro Project. As far as we are concerned, we are working closely with the project proponents.

My view is:

1. The Purari Hydro Project will go on a full scale feasibility studies and no-one will stop that.

2. Of the 650,000 hectares of land obtained by PDA, about 500,000 hectares is Pawaian tribal land.

I must say it will not go without a National Court challenge which is already committed.

Lydia Kailap

Why would Roy Evara stop the damming of the Purari in the 1970's, as claimed by Gabriella, and then go and take out a Special Agricultural and Business Lease of 656,000 hectares and support the same project now?

If the Purari is dammed then the water levels of the whole river will be altered and existing sago will be destroyed, leaving the people to starve. It will also disrupt and destroy vital breeding grounds for fish, prawns and crabs.

There has been no positive development in Gulf for one reason: a succession of leaders who have done nothing for the province when they were in power and had the opportunity.

Instead they have feathered their own nests and educated their own children whilst leaving the Gulf people to suffer.

This hydro scheme was planned for the Mary River in Queensland and the people stopped it because of the adverse effects it would have on the natural environment and the lifestyle of the people.

These people do not even rely on their land for their food. The consultants were highly experienced and trained in their field and the Federal government stopped it because of the adverse effects it would have.

Why would anyone think it is not going to be detrimental in Gulf Province when the people rely on the mighty Purari as a source of life?

There is now mounting pressure being exerted upon the Lands Department and the PNG government by the United Nations to stop all SABL's as being an underhanded attempt to deprive people of their land rights across PNG.

Due process and procedure have been ignored as naive landowners are robbed of their rights by 'big men' with ulterior motives; who will then sell off the rights to foreigners to destroy what belongs to the people.

I'll bet that solar will light up the Gulf Province before electricity from a dam on the Purari ever will. The people have been kept in the dark in more ways than one, but enlightenment is taking place right now as we speak.

When the truth is revealed there will be some who will be trying to find six holes in which to hide.

Christine Evara

This hydroelectric scheme is going to create great opportunities for the Purari people and the Gulf Province and open doors to the outside world.

Lack of infrastructure has kept the Purari and the Gulf people in the dark for ages.

Lydia, this will not deprive the people of this land in any way. Instead they will have a better living standard which will still maintain their ways of hunting and gathering because it runs thick in their blood.

This is about change for a better future and is not about committing treason against the people. You talk about solar power... brilliant idea but why haven't you gone ahead to fund it.

Lydia Kailap

This hydro-electric scheme would benefit Australians at the expense of PNG landowners.

What good is electricity to Gulf villagers when their gardening and fishing is destroyed? They can get solar power for their needs at a reasonable price and not have to keep paying for the service.

This project will not bring a better lifestyle to the peoples of the Purari; instead it will steal and deprive them of what little they already have.

You talk about roads and hospitals and education Christine. Since when has any one so-called development in PNG given this to the landowners?

They will lose their land, their gardens (sago), their protein source (fish, prawns and crabs) and be given nothing in return.

The only beneficiaries within PNG will be those who committed treason against their people.

Christine Evara

Some people may have the comforts of electricity, sewerage, running water and all the necessities. I think this is a great project. Finally the people of Purari and Gulf Province can see the light.

I have lived in Australia for 20 years every year I go home to visit the family nothing has been changed. People still live without the things we take for granted.

In order to build roads, hospitals and education centre we have to let this project go forward in order for Purari and Gulf Province to move forward.

Of course they have to have the best engineers from around the world to work on this project, as we want the best possible outcome for Gulf Province and Purari.

They have to follow all the procedures correctly with this hydroelectric system.

Lydia Kailap

Gabriella you have a very interesting view of history.

Perhaps you would like to explain why the umbrella association set up by your father took out a Special Agricultural & Business Lease (SABL) over 600,000 hectares of Gulf land in January this year.

These are the leases that are being used to sell off land to foreign timber companies to alienate true landowners.

What grand development for the I'are people do you have planned for this particular parcel of land?

The minute that lease is challenged in Court it will be found to be illegal and obtained through back-door deals, as have all SABLs to date once challenged.

Which is why the United Nations has demanded that the PNG government explain itself regarding these SABLs.

Gabriella Evara

I am from one of the biggest tribes in Purari, the Iare Tribe of Baimuru District.

My father, Mr Roy Evara OBE, a former Member of Parliament and a principle landowner along with other Purari Action Group members, stopped the damming of the mighty Purari River in the 1970s.

The Association has existed ever since and has currently changed its name to Purari Development Association. My father is currently the chairman of the only legally approved Umbrella Association in Baimuru which represents the nine tribes of Baimuru.

He has dedicated his life towards safeguarding the Baimuru/Purari people's land and resources.

It is a pleasure for me to take this opportunity to inform the world that the landowners of Baimuru have successfully obtained their land title and we have every right to speak for how we want our land and its resources for the benefit of all and for our future generations.

I would like to salute my father Roy Evara OBE and his Association members for a job well done!

My dad has created history in Papua New Guinea for all landowners to follow. The Baimuru people have set a benchmark for all other landowners to follow.

PDA under Mr Roy Evara's leadership has created history again!

Stephen Cox

This unfortunately shows just how the ordinary people are being conned by governments and big business worldwide.

Hydroelectric power has many merits as a form of supplying power, power which will benefit the normal person.

But there are better ways to supply this without the massive environmental changes that can be detrimental.

There is an approach to hydroelectricity many are not aware of known as 'run of river': dams are not used; there are simply short diversion channels for part of the water flow and then smaller turbine units in series one after the other gives the needed power supply without massive dams.

There are areas around the world where dams are justified for flood control and what we see as normal benefits such as stable water supply is the bonus rather than the prime objective.

There are always better ways to do something provided those involved are capable of thinking outside the square.

The biggest problem is government that seeks only for itself and has an inertia that precludes even seeking better ways to achieve results.

Dave Kimble

I live in the rainforest of north-east Queensland, so I feel some affinity with the people of the Purari.

I would like to see a campaign against this project running in Queensland, so I have been collecting information on the project at:

Any additional information would be welcome, especially contacts in PNG who understand how things work (or don't work) in the development assessment process, and opposition groupings, history of the original project, and so on.

P Kailap

I am from the Purari. The hydro project was stopped in the 1970's by Prosey Mailau (Professor of Political Science from the Purari) and Nicolas Auwo.

Even back in the 1970's, the Purari people were aware of the destruction that such a project would bring to their river, their land and their lives. Thus they became activists against it and won.

Now, 40 years later (when we should know better), some careless and ignorant people want to start it up again.

Dr Neuendorf is correct: the people know nothing of this project; they were not consulted.

If Anna Bligh and Charles Nieuwoudt (of Origin Energy) think they can push this through with the PNG government without the consent of the people of the Purari they are in for a very rude shock.

The Gulf tribes were the very last of the headhunters and cannibals. They are very fierce people who will protect their land and life.

Just like the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and Highlands Pacific are going to find out in Madang. Papua New Guineans are gentle and humble people; but they are not weak or defenceless.

We will not allow it to happen: by court case, by public awareness, by world campaigning, by any means at our disposal - it will not happen.

Nalau Bingeding

How could the government through Moses Maladina go ahead and sign agreements without people who are going to be affected knowing about it.

Damming Purari will kill fisheries in the Gulf of Papua and the Coral Sea. All debris and sediments carried by the Purari into the Gulf of Papua supports these fisheries.

Mangroves will die back if the Purari is dammed. Kerema people will lose sago crops due to lower water levels and and disruptions to flow of sediments from the Purari.

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