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Buy a sarif, there’s a heritage to protect

- heritage stamp
A postage stamp showing the spectacular Wawoi Falls in the Kikori River Basin which is on the tentative heritage list area. Unfortunately logging has now extended right up to the falls

JOHN GREENSHIELDS

ADELAIDE – I have to thank Chris Warrillow for correcting me as to the location of Sir Hubert Murray’s gravesite.

He saved me a frustrating visit to Bomana on my next trip to Papua New Guinea.

I’ll go to Badihagwa instead, bearing a K5 tradestore sarif to cut the grass.

The article prompted me to do some research on PNG’s heritage protection.

The Kuk Early Agricultural site was added to the World Heritage List in 2008.

The National Cultural Property (Preservations) Act and the National Museum and Art Gallery Act empower the National Museum to protect and preserve cultural and historical objects of particular importance to PNG.

I believe that Murray’s grave is of such significance to both Australia and PNG that it should be protected where it is as a heritage place.

Murray spent a lifetime of selfless devotion to the preservation of Papuan lands and the well-being of its people against predatory interests.

All Papua New Guineans - politicians and people alike - should know his story, and Australia too should be proud of this great man.

It should not be beyond the collective powers of the Australian and PNG governments to amicably resolve a land dispute over a gazetted government cemetery.

This could be a joint initiative of both governments to protect this site as an ongoing responsibility.

During my research, I was interested to find that seven sites, not including Bagihagwa cemetery, had been listed for Tentative World Heritage nomination in 2006.

A review in 2015 stated that no progress has been made on this matter. The seven sites are:

- huon terraces
The Huon Terraces

Huon Terraces. A remarkable sequence of spectacular and well-preserved coastal terraces at Sialum, which stand as testimony to the world’s geo-climatic history over the last 300,000 years and are considered the finest sequence of coral terraces in the world.

Trans-Fly. A site of outstanding conservation significance that includes the largest tract of savanna and grasslands in PNG.

Upper Sepik River Basin. This is one of the largest and most intact freshwater basins in the Asia Pacific region, the diverse habitats of which are globally significant. It is potentially one of the premier conservation areas of the world.

Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau. A diverse area of outstanding conservation value. Much of the Kikori is threatened by resource exploitation and development including logging, mining and hydrocarbon extraction.

- Hindenburg Wall (Grant Dixon)
The Hindenburg Wall (Grant Dixon)

The Sublime Karst - mainland section. The Hindenburg Wall and Muller Plateau remain significantly uninhabited and in a state largely natural and endemic to the geological instability of the country.

Sublime Karst - island section. Nakanai in West New Britain is immediately threatened and needs urgent action to protect its high conservation values.

Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges. The ranges through which the Kokoda Track passes is one of the most biologically important areas in the Asia Pacific. Extreme altitudinal and climatic variation have produced a rich variety of vegetation types from savanna to monsoon forest, lowland rainforest and cloud forest.

Milne Bay Coral Seascape. A mixed cultural and natural site comprising largely uninhabited coral atolls and islands with numerous coral reefs and Samarai Island, a PNG government declared national heritage island.

The lack of progress seemed to coincide with the death of Vagi Renagi Genorupa, the manager of the PNG’s National World Heritage Secretariat, who was an important guardian of the country’s natural heritage.

- samarai island
Samarai island

The will to undertake the necessary research to nominate these tentative listings for world heritage nomination seems to have faded, especially as a number of the sites are currently the subject of mining, logging, petroleum and fishing extraction activities.

It would seem a worthy aid project for Australia to offer to work with the PNG government to take the nomination process further.

Is there a 21st century Hubert Murray who understands the need to balance progress and preservation and ensure the PNG people do not lose their priceless heritage?

Download here: ‘World Heritage Tentative Listed Sites In Papua New Guinea: Report on a review of the sites’ by Peter Hitchcock and Jennifer Gabriel (January 2015)

Comments

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John Greenshields

As reported in The Guardian, it seems as if DFAT recognises the value of marine conservation, both for Australia and PNG:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/25/turtle-concern-australian-businessman-denies-threatening-to-sell-conflict-islands-to-china

Perhaps the Australian government could ask PNG if it could assist by preparing a World Heritage final nomination for the Milne Bay Coral seascape.

This was proposed and accepted for tentative listing in 2014. Since then, nothing seems to have happened.

Now Ian Gowrie-Smith proposes to sell his company, which owns the Conflict Islands under a Crown grant (effectively freehold), which is rare in PNG.

So all hell broke loose….a media frenzy erupted.

It would be in the interests of marine conservation if the current owner and the two governments could reach some agreement.

Australia might also consider assisting a nomination for the other six sites, which have lapsed since 2014.

That would support eco-visitation and offer PNG a sustainable future to some remote and impoverished communities.

John Greenshields

PNG's environment, conservation and climate change minister, Wera Mori, says Cabinet has approved the establishment of a secretariat to drive the government’s carbon trading program to monetise the country’s rainforests.

“What is of relevance to Papua New Guinea is the question of how we can monetise our biodiversity. This is the crux of the matter.

“Under the framework, the industrial world must pay PNG for us to preserve our rainforests.

“This is the national framework we are developing. Cabinet has approved the setup of a secretariat."

https://www.thenational.com.pg/secretariat-established-to-drive-carbon-trading-programme/

When there’s a kina in it, governments get interested. But the key element of carbon trading is conservation, minister.

For a start, why not seek assistance to prepare the seven World Heritage nominations for PNG, languishing since 2014?

That might show the world that PNG is a serious custodian of its natural heritage, and can be trusted with carbon trading.

John Greenshields

In 2013 the Australian High Commission staff in Port Moresby cleaned up Murray’s grave.

Maybe it’s time for another working bee, and a more permanent solution for this great Australian.

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/quiet-and-unquiet-graves-letter-port-moresby

Paul Oates

Oh, alright then, Phil. PNG should be able to cater for 'travelers'. The point I'm making is that these wonderful places should be known to the world and perhaps declared national treasures that must be looked after under legislation and international agreements.

Look at places like Plitvice Lakes in Croatia or the Sequoia Trees in California. Once the world knows about them, there is an incentive to protect them from your rapacious tourists.

Philip Fitzpatrick

For the sake of these wonderful places it's actually a good thing that PNG doesn't host lots of tourists.

Tourists are a pox on the environment. The money they bring isn't worth the damage they cause.

Travellers, of course, are a different thing entirely.

Paul Oates

Having been to a number of World Heritage sites I truly agree with you John.

Being stationed at Sialum for nearly two years I can assure everyone that hasn't been there this is a place to visit. A beautiful turquoise lagoon, great sea breezes and the coral terraces that stretch up into the cool mountains of the Huon Peninsula. I described it in 'Small Steps Along the Way'.

https://www.amazon.com.au/Small-Steps-Along-Paul-Oates/dp/1707077932/

The problem is not that PNG doesn't have attractive and beautiful locations and places to visit. PNG also has interesting people and vibrant cultures that tourists would love to experience.

Everyone who lives there however, knows the problem. It's with law and order and a lack of suitable infrastructure.

What can be done to make these natural wonders accessible to the world? Look at what works elsewhere in the world and learn from the best examples.

Once the current pandemic is over, many people around the world will want to travel again. Now is the time for PNG to prepare to harvest this source of future international finance.

Everyone should be able to benefit. All it takes is the will to fix what needs to be fixed.

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