I allowed myself to dream of life without politicians
The Papua New Guinean voice is as important as any other voice

A Kiwi police sergeant’s letter home from Bougainville

CRAIG THORNE | Bay of Plenty Times 

Sgt Craig Thorne and Bougainville kids
Sergeant Craig Thorne takes a selfie with boys from Buin

BUIN - For those of you who don't know, I am currently on a deployment from Waihi in New Zealand to Bougainville in a town called Buin which is as far south as you can go and is the most remote part of Papua New Guinea.

Without going into too much detail, New Zealand Police are here to assist the Bougainville Police Service and advise them on policing matters. This will eventually have them being self-sufficient and enabling them to police without our influence. Three NZ Police are based in Buin.

The country is still rebuilding from the civil war of 1988-1998 which ended with between 15,000 and 20,000 Bougainvilleans dead. This all started over the Panguna mine which in its day was the largest open cut mine in the world, rich in copper and gold.

I am now a month into my 12-month deployment - so what do I miss? It is not the material things or peanut M&Ms (well, I do, but can live without). It is my partner, close family and friends. I have learnt very quickly here that, at the end of the day, that is all that really matters.

I don't want for anything here. It has been a month since I've had a trim latte and I haven't gone crazy yet although I will be looking forward to one when I return.

We go to the market every second day or so and get fresh vegies and fruit. The pineapples and bananas are the sweetest I've ever tasted and you buy them for next to nothing.

In the downtime, we exercise with what very basic equipment we have and watch all the NRL games which I don't even get to do at home.

The weather here has a low of 24 degrees at night and during the day around 37 degrees, and yes, we wear uniform, including long trousers.

The roads you wouldn't believe - it is like driving on a river bed. It is only 98km from Buin to the nearest town of Arawa but this takes us just under three hours due to the condition of the road. There are also several river crossings in this trip which are impassable after heavy rain.

In Buin, we only have power a few hours a day, no supermarket or malls to shop at.

It is very, very simple yet the people are the friendliest I have ever met.

In fact, they have nothing, yet have it all, which we could all learn from - everyone should be able to live in harmony no matter what.


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Roger Porteous

Re William Dunlop's request for info on Roger Porteous's Store at Buin.

I sold out to the local Buin people in 1978, stayed on as manager for two years before returning to Australia.

The shop and residence were burnt down some six months after I left.

William Dunlop

NB I have been to the crash site of the Betty Bomber that Yamamoto was killed in

William Dunlop

The late Paul Mason of Innus Plantation was the Coast watcher responsible
for alerting the allied forces that Yamamoto's plane had passed over him and was heading for Buin.

I new Paul and his wife son and daughter well, as he owned the Chimbu Lodge as well as Buka Stores, and stayed at the Lodge quiet often.

Paul was a very charming but unassuming gentleman in whose mouth butter wouldn't melt.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra has a oil painting of Paul Mason on display.

Chips Mackellar

Craig, remember Pearl Harbour. The Japanese Admiral Yamamoto who was the commander for this attack was on 18 April 1943 on an inspection tour of his troops at Buin. His mission was intercepted by American code breakers and a squadron of Lockheed Lightnings based at Henderson Field was sent to intercept him. They shot his plane down and it crashed in the jungle near Buin and Yamamoto was killed. Years after, a propeller from his aircraft was kept in the Sub-District office at Buin. Is it still there?

Raymond Komis Girana

I was asked by my fellow people when I came for holiday from Auckland in 2008 about life in a city or in a developed world. I told them that the only difference is one's experience of happiness. Thanks, Thorne for sharing your Bougainville experience with us.

William Dunlop

Craig - Is Roger Porteous's store still functioning in the town of Buin.

Have not been their since 1977, when I was the Plant and Transport Authority Manager for Bougainville.

The road trip to Kieta in those days took about an hour.

Philip Fitzpatrick

".....they have nothing, yet have it all, which we could all learn from - everyone should be able to live in harmony no matter what."

I think that's what a lot of us who have worked in PNG take away when we come home Craig.

And you picked it up in only a month!

Mathias Kin

A really good story, Mr Thorne. My first read this morning and felt really good. In fact there is so much good in this country then there is bad. Maybe we should enjoy what's around us more than keep complaining about the bad.

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