Ishmael Toroama – rebel, peace-maker, farmer, leader
The trouble with science

They built them to last back then

Kwikila District Office
Kwikila District Office


TUMBY BAY - If you drive around the older suburbs of Port Moresby you can see houses, still occupied, that date back well before independence.

Here and there old dustbin cages can also be seen, still sitting up on their steel poles out of the reach of stray dogs.

Most of the old houses are badly weathered but a few have coats of paint and neat gardens. Blue with red trim seems to be a favourite colour combination.

Out in the provinces you cannot only see pre-independence houses but also public buildings dating back before independence.

Many schools still have classrooms built in the 1950s and 1960s and long-standing sub-district offices now pass as the headquarters of provincial district administrations.

The hardiness of these old buildings is quite remarkable. In the hot and humid conditions of large parts of Papua New Guinea you would have expected them to have rotted away long ago.

Most of them have fibro-cement cladding and some also have fibro-cement roofing. Given their vintage they are probably lousy with asbestos and potentially dangerous.

The houses are mostly built to patterns developed in Australia for tropical areas. The most common are designated as categories AR10, AR16 and AR20.

When I visited Darwin in 1975 following Cyclone Tracy I was surprised to see many of these houses still standing proud while surrounded by the wreckage of places of more modern design.

Kwikila Sub District Office 1964
Kwikila Sub District Office, 1964

A lot of kiaps will remember the sub-district office at Kwikila where they went for final training after their ASOPA course and before being posted to the districts.

I don’t know exactly when the office was built but it must have been in the very early 1960s. I went back there in 2014 and discovered that the building had morphed into the headquarters of the Rigo District Administration.

Around town the old pre-independence era police station was still going strong and so were the classrooms at the primary school.

Kwikila is probably typical of many rundown district towns that would be in trouble if it wasn’t for these old buildings.

As I understand it, the member for Rigo Open doesn’t even have a house in town. He prefers the bright lights of Port Moresby.

When I was in Kwikila in 2014 there were government cars parked outside the supermarket opposite the district headquarters where the wives of public servants were doing their shopping.

If you wanted to find a public servant your best option was to check under one of the big old raintrees near the market.

As Port Moresby grows and grows, places like Kwikila dreamily bake in the sun.


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

Colin Hayward (who used to try to teach English)

I remember Bill Massinghan. He used to drive a Series1 LandRover. He lived about four doors away from my house, which was the last but one before the bush.

I must have met you when you were a kid but don't remember. I had two boys - Nigel and Simon - maybe you remember them.

I think that Kwikila school has closed down. Over the years the last of the expatriate teachers got out and the place just dropped tp pieces. Also most of the school funds were apparently stolen.

I think it would be a sad place now.

Kinjo Vali

Who are the rightful landowners of Kwikila Station?

Hi Kinjo. I hope one of our readers has that information - KJ

Tony Massingham

Ah what a memory, I lived in Kwikila 1969 to 1973. My dad, Bill Massingham was the Manual Arts teacher at Kwikila High.

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.)