A brush with death & trickery at the crocodile pool
Bougainville public servants take advantage of new time zone

Tackling the urbanisation problem is central to a livable city


An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

FOR anyone following the development of Gordons Market over the years, it may seem as if the problems arising in and around it are never ending.

Gordons Market was at one time the best managed and well-kept in Papua New Guinea. The city council was able to enforce laws and regulations effectively, unlike today when rampant lawlessness has significantly tarnished its reputation.

Growing up in Port Moresby, I have many fond memories of the once glorious market.

The sight of pigeons dashing across the sky or mooching along the walkways or the carpark, in those days free for shoppers to use unlike today where the space has been taken over by illicit activities such as gambling.

The pigeons in those days belonged to the city council, and the public was prohibited from touching or hurting them. As kids we were tempted to touch them but my parents discouraged me.

The environment inside the market was friendly with a market inspector on the lookout for litter bugs. Petty crime like pickpocketing was unheard of.

Unfortunately nowadays the market is infested with criminals and drunkards who have no regard for the rule of law. The police stage raids every now and then but the status quo remains.

I have been frequenting Gordons Market especially in the mornings as our bus pick-up zone is just opposite Gordons Police Station.

Every time I hurried towards the pick-up zone, I had to swerve and nudge my way through a sea of street vendors screaming at the top of their voices to convince me to buy their items.

Most of the vendors are youths who are good at preying on unsuspecting passer-by. The number of these vendors is increasing by the day, so much so I get a feeling that the government will have to come up with measures to prevent people migrating into cities from the villages.

Failure to do that may mean we could lose important civic infrastructure such as the Gordons Market to thugs and drunkards. The signs are already there and the situation does not look like easing anytime soon.

Most of these vendors don’t appear genuine, in fact they are opportunists. These are the very people whose inhumane behaviour has led to the police dishing out unfair treatment on innocent mothers and fathers who are trying their best to sell a few things to meet their family’s needs.

For the sake of our law abiding citizens trying to make an honest living, we have to regain control of Gordons Market and return it to its former glory.

To this end it is commendable to note that National Capital District Commission in partnership with UN Women is planning to modernise Gordons Market under the Safe Cities Market Program.

Even more encouraging are initiatives spearheaded by leaders like Justin Tkatchenko who recently renovated the old Koki and Sabama Markets.

Yet the issue of space is still a problem and vendors can be seen selling outside the market gates or peddling along the streets of Port Moresby. It is clear that the government will have to confront the challenging and sensitive issue of migration and urbanisation.

Already there have been suggestions that the government should enforce the Vagrancy Act. Others see the government’s National Identification Project as key to monitoring the movement of people.

People like me believe that formalising land tenure in settlements and creating a central property registry will address at least some problems of urbanisation, law and order and unemployment by converting property into assets that can be used to access loans or to build trade stores through the Stret Pasin Stoa scheme.

Whatever the approach the government decides to take, it has to make sure it addresses the uncontrolled flow of people from rural areas into the urban centres like Port Moresby.

Only then will we be able to regain public utilities that have been lost to the uncompromising nature of lawlessness that is plaguing public places like Gordons Market. 


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Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

My personal opinion of urbanisation in PNG is that the government should identify growth areas/centres and invest in developing it by setting up critical infrastructures such as roads, electricity, markets, health and education facilities, sporting facilities, banks and so forth.

Pretty much what Phil and John have alluded to.

I also think that the government will have to quickly review the Cities Act so that we protect our towns and cities from landowner threats and demands for compensation. Cities and Towns in PNG need to be declared as national asset to be managed by the national government for and on behalf of the people of PNG.

Oftentimes in PNG a lot of major towns and cities have fallen victim to landowner demands which has sabotage the flow of goods and services. As part of that review we also need to redefine what we mean by "city" and "town".

Nowadays in PNG there are cities that are not cities. Equally there are towns that are not supposed to be called towns because they lack basic amenities and infrastructure.

Also massive rural-urban drift has blown out the population of most towns and cities in PNG which has greatly impacted on the infrastructure or generally the public goods and services provided by the government.

Unless and until that is not done our towns and cities will grow in an unplanned manner and will remain vulnerable to unnecessary external shocks like landowner demands.

Michael, thank you for your comment please note that I have changed my blogsite address for PNG Informal Economist to http://pnginformaleconomist.blogspot.com

Michael Dom

Hey Busa, what happened to your blog site, PNG Informal Economist?

John Kaupa Kamasua

Just to add: Put this particularly down to leadership; we can have vision 2050, all the best plans and policies, but lack of pragmatic, focused, and practical leadership.

With DSIP component increased from K10 million to K15 million, our MPs should begin to design programs and revive basic services in the districts where most of the people are...and many more are likely to return.

There is so much happening, but the urbanisation issue is a bread and butter issue that needs attention!

Phil Fitzpatrick

It's interesting that you say that about highlanders Michael.

In the 1960s there was a concerted effort to stop highlanders coming down to Port Moresby. As I recall the biggest problem was at the Boroko pub on pay nights when the Simbus let loose.

It's not only the Moresby markets that they've trashed - the beautiful market in Madang has fallen foul of their depredations. That's why people in Madang are worried about the road upgrade.

Build a mega city in the highlands with a big fence around it send all of them without a job back up there - it's the only solution.

I can see the headline now - 'Port Moresby Turns into a Ghost City.

Garry Roche

Papua New Guinea is listed as third lowest on the scale of countries on the UN graphic of the percentage of population residing in urban areas in 2014. Over 80% of the population of PNG are living in rural areas.
There is perhaps a presumption that the percentage of urban dwellers will inevitably increase. However PNG could try and follow some countries e.g. Italy where there are a multitude of smaller cities rather than a few massive cities. In other words, if facilities are provided in more rural areas, larger towns may develop. Currently most provinces only have one or two large towns. With proper facilities, such as banks, post offices, etc, it may be possible to avoid a huge concentration in places like Port Moresby, Lae, Hagen, Kokopo etc., and have urbanization expressed in many many medium or large sized towns.

For UN data on urbanisation see:

Michael Dom

When I used to pass through Gordons market and observe the urban vagrants and so called street vendors harassing young girls, women shoppers and other commuters I often thought that a rail gun could be a useful tool. Although laser guided drones may be more precise.

Unpleasant, costly, impractical and illegal - so I guess it's for the best that my early instinct at culling back unwanted flock has carried me into livestock science rather than public administration.

The main group causing problems at Gordons market are those of Highlands origin. Honestly, those men and women are embarrassing to the whole lot of us.

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