ADELAIDE – Land administration and corruption are major and related issues in Papua New Guinea.
They are also long-term and well-recognised issues, and a source of immense hardship especially in terms of their impact on the lack of affordable housing in urban PNG.
Squatting on vacant land is not just a practice of the underclass, it is something even middle class Papua New Guineans are compelled to do because of a public policy debacle neither PNG authorities nor their Australian advisers seem able or willing to address.
Successive governments over the past 40 years have failed to deliver affordable home ownership, with the inevitable outcome that homeless people squat illegally, often for many years, before inevitably and forcibly being moved on.
Names like Bushwara, Garden Hills and Sixth Estate are amongst many others well known to Papua New Guineans as representative of a land administration system that is totally broken.
Recently the PNG media reported that residents had been given seven days to vacate land they had occupied at a tract of land at Morata 1 in Port Moresby.
In 2011, after some argy bargy, the PNG Land Board had granted Sixth Estate Limited an urban development lease for a term of five years over an area of some 51 hectares for subdivision into 654 allotments.
Sixth Estate Limited entered into what’s known as a Section 81 Agreement with the National Capital District Commission and its Physical Planning Board which required the construction of basic service infrastructure.
Well, the five years passed and not much happened apart from more squatters moving on to the land.
Then Sixth Estate, having done nothing, surrendered its lease and lo and behold the Department of Lands and Physical Planning unlawfully issued 654 state leases each for 99 years without the required service infrastructure.
The lots were duly put on the market by Sixth Estate at K80,000 a piece.
To observe that this was a wholesale abuse of proper process would be a gross understatement.
To reveal that it had been facilitated by a bureaucracy that was compliant or inept and probably both would be to reach a reasonable understanding of what had transpired.
Now, 10 years later, it seems that Sixth Estate is ready to make a move and the squatters are being given the heave-ho.
Meanwhile, with just another sad story from the naked city, Port Moresby's homeless problem intensifies.