What to do with a recalcitrant councillor?
The price of indifference

Change for the better on this stretch of road


Road 1975 HERE ARE A COUPLE of photographs. They are taken roughly in the same spot on the Magi Highway.

The one with the old LandRover was taken in the early 1970’s, before independence.

The other one with the Landcruiser was taken last week.

The road (under the water) was what Australia left when it bailed out in 1975. Should have bailed out the road first!

The more recent photograph is of the road built by PNG.

Isn’t it terrible? The silly buggers have taken a perfectly good swamp and slapped bitumen all over it. No wonder the place is falling apart.

Magi Highway Today 


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Marianna Luckie

Well I'm a bit late onto this thread. I remember the Rossers and Modra families because we lived at Barakau estate off the Magi highway. My fathers name is Jack Luckie. I remember Jeff andthere were two sisters from one of the families.

Ian Robertson

I missed this article when it first appeared in 2011 but picked it up when Colin Hayward posted his recent comment.

I have a story about the road - not the politics.

On a Saturday morning in 1961 I was celebrating some event in the Top Pub in Port Moresby with Henry Bodman and Jock Collins.

After several hours, a decision was made to visit another old mate, Eric Johns, who was teaching at the Rigo Primary School.

My trusty 1958 VW beetle was loaded with supplies - a timber crate of SP - and off we set in a quite jovial mood.

The road had been recently graded for quite a few miles and the many creek crossings (none bridged) were steep but mainly empty as it was the end of the dry season.

The closer to Rigo the narrower the road became and I recall several sections where tall kunai towered above the VW.

We did arrive safely and a very surprised Eric welcomed us to his bush material home.

After a few more ales Henry advised that he needed to be back in Moresby by 6pm as he was due to escort a delightful young lady named Astrid to a Ball (I think the Red Cross annual).

Henry was most displeased when he was outvoted and the decision was made to await sunrise before attempting the return.

Mike Joyce, a fellow teacher at Rigo, took Henry down to the trade store at KapaKapa on his motorbike to try to contact his date on the radio - unsuccessfully. Henry continued to be displeased.

The return journey on Sunday morning was uneventful but very quiet inside the car.

So the road was OK for VW’s in 1961 subject to weather conditions.

Footnote: Astrid married Henry’s best mate Gavin later that year.

Colin Hayward

I don't think Somare would have led anyone into the main square. His 'bully beef' mates wouldn't have followed him anywhere.

I think that he and his Sogeri mates were heavily influenced by some rather left wing teachers and perhaps a couple of holy people.

I am also convinced now that some people in Australia perhaps were brokering a deal with China which would be paid off in the future.

If I'm right it's reasonable to expect that Whitlam and his mates knew more than we knew about-perhaps he was in the bully beef club himself.

Indy Rosser

P.S. Webber - I may have received an email from you recently and thought it was spam! Perhaps you can confirm.

I am Tom Rosser's young brother (and Tom Rosser Snr's son, obviously).

I tried to subscribe to this thread and received gobbledegook from the server.

I would still like to subscribe, if someone could tell me how!

And to Reginald - Lo be Motu lo luluaboya wadain (and, although I spoke it once, I never wrote it, so I haven't a clue how to write further)!

Kindest regards.

P S Webber

Tom Rosser, are you still in Port Moresby? I would like to speak with you on another matter.

Robert Throw

I did Voluntary Service Overseas at Dagona School on the Kemp Welch River in 1971-72 teaching Standard 6 children mainly from the Mount Brown area but also the river villages from Karekodobu to Kwale. I used to walk through Harry Rosser's plantation after swimming across the Hunter River ( when we lost the school dugout canoe in a flood ).I used to walk to Kwikila twice a week to get provisions at Harry Rosser's store and to get letters and the Times newspaper Airmail edition from home. I used to stay with the Knipe family at Ruatoka at weekends. Journeys into Port Moresby might be a lift from a Kwikila High School teacher in a comfortable Toyota Landcruiser if lucky or sitting on a plank on the back of a truck. The roads were mainly mud in the wet season and hard bumpy as hell in the dry. Our headmaster was Pastor Gabaho Gabaho from Kappa Kappa on the coast and one of my fellow teachers was Tau Rupa from Hula. It was one amazing fantastic time that I have never forgotten and have very fond memories from the other side of the planet.All the VSO volunteers were "managed" by an amazing Australian woman called Margaret Peterson who worked for the United Church.

Kila Raga

My mum always told me stories of the Modra family, she used to leave with them on their farm at Old Rigo. At that time she was called Mou Tola.

She would like to get in touch with the Modra Family again.
Is there any way that we could get in touch?

Paud O'Connor

Is Tom Rosser related to Johnny Rosser who was working with rubber in the Sogeri area 1974-77?

Fidelis Lai

That's true, you can say anything about the Aussies but in fact you need to consider the situation at that time, development is not an overnight thing.

Meanwhile thanks to government for upgrading the Magi Highway and hope the Lae Madang Highway will soon be upgraded.

Robin Mead

Tom - I agree with your frustration about the misstatements of some talking heads about "our closest neighbour".

Is this because they are (a) ignorant (b) blind (c) self-absorbed, or (d) perhaps they don't regard PNG as their neighbour?

Tom Rosser

It would seem Elizabeth would like more Rosser family history.

My grandparents never lived in the Rigo area, it was my father and uncle who were planters in the district. I'll expand on my family's history at a later date....maybe.

The Modra's property, Jeff was the older son, at old Rigo was called Broadview and I think was named after another place near Adelaide.

I must also add that the whole family worked like trojans. They earned their success.

And this comment is for all readers.

I get so brassed off when I hear Australian politicians repeatedly saying Indonesia is "our closest neighbour".

I have been to Saibai Island in Torres Strait and it is only a few kilometres to PNG. Either they take PNG for granted or need geography lessons.

Finally to Reg. In the Papuan spirit, I share your grief.

Elizabeth Hangatt Dagele

Tom Rosser Jnr - I would be interested to know more about your grandparents lives back in the olden days.

Especially if they lived around the Old Rigo Station, where young Jeff Mondras had his farm, near Kapa Kapa.

Reginald Renagi

Leo Hagenson - I note your point and agree with it. Yes, the majority of Papuans today will also wholly agree with you.

Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam did short-circuit Constitutional process by a Parliamentary Act and not through a properly set up referendum in Papua's case.

If this had been done then Papuans would not want to be joined with New Guinea for many good reasons then and now.

The country has now turned out to be a terrible mess to the detriment of the freedom enjoyed by the people of Papua under its former administration, and if it was allowed to look after itself as a separate country from New Guinea.

Whitlam also used Somare contrary to section 34 of his Aussie constitution ... and many Papuans now desire or will push for a more greater degree of autonomy in future.

Leo Hagenson

Whitlam got rid of PNG as fast as he could and Somare loved the ride - his son got on the bandwagon too.

I was in PNG 1966-67 and from 1969-76 and loved visitiing Kalo. A wonderful experience, he was a true gentleman.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Rigo is well worth a visit Tom. The road down there is excellent and everyone is very friendly. I was down there doing some social mapping for an oil company that thinks the geology around Hides continues on as a deeper and underlying feature. They will be down there soon doing seismic off the roads. Don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

Kwikila is a lovely place and the villages at Hula and Kalo are just about merging because of their size. The road down there has lost all its bitumen to erosion and neglect and is a bit bumpy. The road between Kwikila and Marshall Lagoon (Kupiano) was being bituminised when I was there last and is well worth a visit too.

We're about the same age and I've found its a great time to start writing up all the things you've promised to do when you didn't have the time. You'd probably have to publish it yourself, which is fairly easy nowadays. The good thing is that you would be recording an important part of PNG history.

Tom Rosser

Reg - The reason I asked if you were from Rigo is that I intended posting my answer in Motu, however the system prevented me. I still speak it reasonably well after living down south for 35 years.

Both my parents have long gone and are buried in Gosford, NSW. My dad only lived to 65, he had breathing problems which originated from time spent as a POW in Germany.

I was raised on Sivigolo Plantation and was schooled down south. I left PNG after independence not because I wanted to abandon my homeland but rather, I did not want to lose my Australian citizenship.

In the earlier days Australian and New Zealand passports were destroyed if you took PNG citizenship, however, if you were British, European or from almost any other country, your passport was returned to you when leaving PNG.

So migration to Oz was all but forced on many who'd like to have stayed.

I've been back twice in recent years but have yet to re-visit the Rigo sub-district. I have a lot of the Rigo history in my memory which should be passed on to the local people.

My grandfather first went to Papua in 1898 followed by my grandmother in 1906. My dad was born at Koki in 1921 and I was born in Moresby in 1949 so as you can see, the family has a long link to PNG.

Reginald Renagi

Hi Tom - Yes, to your last question.

Tom Rosser

If you were stuck near a Sorghum property it was Patikalana near Kalo village, a farm operated by a very young Jeff Modra.

The Modras had a farm at 'Old Rigo' near Kapa Kapa as it was then known. They hailed from Adelaide way and all except the old Mum (Jean) drove vehicles like buggery, quite a record of prangs, several Holdens and a Pontiac.

Reg, family long since left PNG; Dad and Mum both gone and we, the next generation, are getting older more quickly that we would like.

Are you a PNG National and if so, are you a Rigo.

Reginald Renagi

Phil and Tom - The pics and comments take me down 'nostalgia road' for me.

I remember very well the road conditions then and since the early 1970s.

Tom, when I was a young Rigo boy growing up in the 1960s, I kept hearing my parents and relatives talk in reverence of a Rigo iconic name - Tom Rosser Snr.

Is your family still there or have all left for 'under under' by now?

Phil Fitzpatrick

You're right, Tom. The old memory isn't as good as it used to be. The bogged photo was taken in 1969 on the road down to Hula, somewhere around a sorghum plantation.

I think the wet season that year was pretty damp because when we got to Hula they asked us to take the mail out because they hadn't been able to get through.

There were a couple of patches on the highway that had water going across as we drove back.

Tom Rosser Jnr

The 'bogged' photo was not taken on the Magi Highway, then known as the Rigo Road, in the 1970s. Perhaps it was taken from a side road to fishing spot or the like.

The Rigo road was perfectly drivable in a conventional sedan type car from as early as 1964, the same year my Dad bought his first Holden station wagon.

Overall the road was kept in reasonable condition but remained unsealed until well after self-government.

My father, who owned Sivigolo Estate, and Owen Wardrop from Poligolo Plantation blazed the trail to Moresby in 1957 to attend Ian Loudon's funeral.

Dad drove a LandRover and Owen a war surplus Jeep across open country and pioneered what is now known as the Magi Highway.

In the 1970s everyone in Kwikila used normal cars to travel to Moresby all year round.

Reginald Renagi

Paul - Just linking to what Phil said to the effect of instead of Australia bailing out in 1975, it should have bailed out the roads first.

I agree with him as millions would not be spent now to rehabilitate the same road sytems left by the former colonial administration.

The two pictures show different portions of Magi Highway.
The difference a span of 40 years makes is that the roads in many parts of PNG are sealed. But in other parts of PNG, they are atrocious.

Some things have changed in the past 35 years, some good; some not so good. It is all a matter of priorities and balanced development, in ratio and proportion to the amount of money spent in a given period of time.

What's the current problem? First, independence came too early and the roads (like all infrastructure and the people) were not well developed then. The result is more money is spent now to fix existing roads as well as build/maintain new ones.

Secondly, the AusAID program could cut aid levels by systematically reducing them over time.

Thirdly, make the present aid management process more effective.

Fourthly, the ongoing inefficiency of AusAID program is evident. The flaw is with successive PNG and Australian administrations. AusAID runs separately from the PNG government's program of works. Hopefully this improves after the current review by an independent panel.

Paul, don't throw in the towel just yet on learning Motu. I will give you a few pointers by distance learning mode on email.

Craige Brown

I lived in Kupiano in 1984-85 and have memories of being bogged on the Magi many times trying to get to and from Moresby.

Reginald Renagi

Barbara - That will be just a storm in a tea cup. Nothing much would have amounted to that.

The army and police would always be on hand to make sure the risk to people and property was minimal.

This is nothing compared to the millions it is taking to rehabilitate the main road network system left by the Australian administration in 1975.

Australia has spent in this country under its foreign aid program just under $15 billion since self-government.

But there is nothing much (on the ground) to show for all this money - where did it all go?

Not to ordinary PNGeans!

Paul Oates

A picture may tell a thousand words but the story behind these two photos hasn't been fully exposed.

Exactly how much did whoever designed and built the road in the '1970's' have in their budget and how much did it take to build the present road?

Many PNG roads in the past were build by hand and with only the goodwill and expectations of the local people for a better life.

Comparing the deprivations of yesteryear, and the relatively huge amounts being currently spent, is like comparing apples and oranges.

Reg, you've raised that hoary old chestnut again. Who wanted Australia to leave PNG in the lurch in 1975? A few Australian politicians and a few PNG politicians. Em tasol! [That's all!]

What's the current problem you may well ask? Nothing appears to have changed much in over 35 years has it? Lau diba sisina! [I give up!]

Barbara Short

But if Australia had stayed Somare and his gang would have led a mob in the main square of Port Moresby and demanded we go or else!

Then what!

Reginald Renagi

The roads along the Magi Highway (a major road system running east towards the Milne Bay border within the Rigo sub-district) of Central Province are in reasonably better conditions than the Hiritano Highway (major westerly road linking to the Gulf Province).

The Magi Highway has several potholes (so too the Hiritano) along certain sections. They get increasingly worse (road craters gets more wider and deeper) as you travel further east.

The recent heavy rains have not helped much and will need a good makeover by local pollies before the elections next year.

'Improving roads if you vote me in' will again become the big promotional issue in every political election campaign speech for the 2012 general elections.

The major road trunk system in PNG was what Australia left when it bailed out in 1975. Phil says: Australia should have bailed out the road first! I fully agree with that.

Independence for PNG could have waited another 20 years. In that time, with Australia's help, we could have developed a very good country by today.

PNG would have made some big improvements in its infrastructure in key areas like: transport, communications, government institutions, public administration systems and procedures including a major investment in our human capital.

Had we done that, PNG would now be not in this present mess today; and Australia did not really developed the country since 1905.

In 1905, Papua became the seventh partner in the federation of the Commonwealth of Australia under the Papua Act No 9 of 1905. So British New Guinea became technically the seventh State of Australia.

Now Australia is wasting billions through AusAID in PNG. They are only doing this to catch up for lost time. All this Australian taxpayer money could have been saved and properly used.

Had Australia done its job as expected of it as a responsible colonial administration during the 68 years Papua was under her care (1905-75), PNG would have less problems now.

Thus, Australia should not be too quick to boast about what it did for PNG leading up to Independence.

Because it did not do a good job but a rushed one when it bailed out on us in 1975, all of PNG roads are now in very bad condition.

It will cost millions to rehabilitate the whole road network in PNG.

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