Just a few words to ruin a loving relationship
The true tale of the yellow rocks of Andru Johanna

Kiap, MP, planter & private eye, John Stuntz, dies at 87

John Stuntz with two Langimar leaders circa 1950ALLYN HICKS | Sydney Morning Herald

IN 1949 the Department of Territories, Canberra, posted a recruitment notice headlined "Papua New Guinea: careers with a challenge."

The advertisement called for "young men possessing initiative, imagination and courage, positions in PNG, one being that of Cadet Patrol Officer (CPO)."

To qualify, an applicant had to be male, between 18 and 24 years old, single and a British subject. The advertisement promised the CPOs "adventure, autonomy and an opportunity to make a difference".

This was not an understatement by the Department, and CPOs, most of them barely out of their teens, held many responsibilities.

At any time they could be ambassador, judge, policeman, medical officer, administrator, explorer, farmer, carpenter, engineer and anthropologist, often in challenging and dangerous territory. The contribution these young men made towards PNG's development as a modern nation was profound.

John Stuntz (1928-2015) was one who successfully applied and for the next 30 years he lived in PNG. Apart from his role as a patrol officer (kiap), his contribution to his adopted country extended into sport, politics and public service.

John Ronald Stuntz was a Manly boy, through and through. He was born in 1928, son of Robert and Elsie Stuntz, and as a youth excelled in sports. He was a champion beach sprinter, rowed in the Freshwater surfboat crew and boxed.

However it was in rugby league that he excelled and just before his departure for PNG he played in two trials for Manly's first grade team. One of his closest friends, the champion Manly and Australian prop Roy Bull, once commented that Stuntz was destined to play A Grade and probably would have gone onto even higher honours.

Stuntz certainly had rugby league genes. His uncle, Johnno Stuntz (after whom John was named), played for Australia but was killed at Bullecourt in May 1917. Young John's father played for Eastern Suburbs, and his brother, Bob, played A Grade for Newtown.

Twice young John tried to enlist in World War II but was rejected as being under age, despite having altered his birth certificate date from 1928 to 1926. In the end, he was too late for the war and after a short stint as a pharmacist (which he hated), he applied for a CPO position.

His great mate, Ken "Arko" Arthurson, also applied at the same time but was rejected. Stuntz later commented how different Arthurson's life would have been had he been successful. Fortunately, for Manly Sea Eagles and Australian Rugby League in general, this was not the case.

Those men accepted as CPOs did four months intensive training at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA), the 50% who passed the course were flown to Port Moresby and travelled on from there. Stuntz's first posting was to the Wau area in Morobe province.

After several short patrols he was given the task of re-opening Otibanda Patrol Post in so-called "uncontrolled territory". He had just turned 21.

Otibanda was located in the Upper Watut​ Valley and was home to the notorious Kukukukus. He was warned by his superior, Assistant District Officer (ADO) Bill Searle, that these people were notoriously treacherous and stressed that it was imperative that Stuntz and his police contingent were always to be armed.

Stuntz's role was to re–establish the post and to "expand the influence of the patrol post as circumstances permitted". To this end he patrolled further up the Watut river, where he learned that a group of "Kukukuku renegades" was pillaging villages in the area.

He was also told of talk that Kukukukus from the Langimar River area had warned that if he visited their territory they would chop off his hands and feet, disembowel him, stuff him with grass and hang him up as a warning to others not to encroach on their territory. When he told his boss, Searle roared with laughter and said, "The little bastards will probably do that if they catch you."

Stuntz's response was to immediately conduct a patrol to the Langimar. Apart from one shower of arrows there were no problems.

After about six months the patrol post at Kobakini was fully established and just before Stuntz returned to Wau the group of so called renegades from the Kobakini area arrived at the station.

They ceremoniously handed in their weapons and asked to be taken to Wau to seek employment. As their reputation had preceded them they caused quite a sensation when they eventually arrived, but they eventually found the work they wanted.

Stuntz was given further postings to the Northern Province, where he was involved in rescue operations following the Mount Lamington eruption in 1951. His final posting was to Milne Bay. In the mid-1950s he resigned from government and bought Mariawatte copra plantation on the East Papuan coast. He remained there for the next 20 years.

Living on the plantation allowed Stuntz to regularly visit Port Moresby, where he resumed his interest in sport. He played and coached rugby league for Magani Club and served on the club's committee. He was the first to see the advantage of bringing up experienced players from Australia to help lift the standard in the local competition.

He also became active in amateur boxing and was elected president of the PNG Amateur Boxing Union and later became an AIBA (International Boxing Association) qualified referee and judge. As president of the PNGABU, Stuntz abandoned previous policies of sending only one or two boxers to overseas tournaments. His dictum was that if funds were available, competent boxers in all divisions were sent.

Under his inspired leadership amateur boxing thrived in PNG. He also organised regular tournaments, often involving top boxers from Australia competing against their PNG counterparts. Stuntz was made a life member of the PNGABU.

As well, Stuntz contributed to public life and politics in PNG. He served on the Legislative Council and then as an elected member for East Papua Regional Electorate in the first PNG House of Assembly.

He was a prominent and energetic MP, introducing several private members bills and serving on several high powered committees that formulated recommendations regarding the then approaching independence. After independence in 1975, he was elected Deputy Speaker and served on several PNG Public Service committees.

In 1976, Stuntz sold Mariawattie and relocated to Port Moresby. There he married Wari Numa, a champion field hockey player from Hula Village. In 1979, they moved to Manly and Stuntz worked as a private investigator.

After Wari's death from cancer in 2007, Stuntz moved to Angeles City in the Philippines and married Tess Genambiang.

However, in 2010 Stuntz had a bad fall which necessitated surgery. The wound became infected and for the last four years of his life he was largely bedridden.

Stuntz, ever a realist, knew he was dying and though in severe pain refused painkillers so that he could retain his rigorous and disciplined intellect and personality. Up until the end, he enjoyed reminiscing with the steady flow of friends who regularly visited him.

These friends paid for a carer to assist Stuntz when he became totally bedridden.

John Stuntz is survived by Tess, daughters Julia, Jana and Beverley and adopted sons Kopi and Peter.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)