There’s no escaping a hothouse earth
Kessy Sawang is woman #2 in PNG parliament

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 33 – Development & dislocation

“In mining, hard facts and foresight are important. We are very conscious of the fact that in a few years, Papua and New Guinea may be independent. Soon there may be an indigenous administration – call it a black president if you like"

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Arawa headman Narug and other village leaders Monoerung Tavore (wearing glasses) and Kori (in hat) listen as kiap Max Heggen explains the Arawa Agreement under which villagers would forfeit a tract of land to allow a large town to be built to service the Panguna mine. Brown describes Narug as a tough negotiator but "thoughtful and reasonable."


THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – Bougainville District Commissioner Des (DN) Ashton paid the price for obeying orders at Rorovana when the Papua New Guinea Administration removed his authority over Bougainville Copper's areas of operation.

Following Australian Prime Minister John Gorton’s August intervention in the Rorovana confrontation, the Administration committed a special unit of a dozen kiaps to the mining operation.

The unit included a newly appointed District Commissioner (Special Duties) me, District Officers (DOs) Ross Henderson and Colin Sanderson, Assistant District Officers (ADOs) Mike Bell, Max Heggen and Bernie Maume, Patrol Officers (POs) John Russell-Pell, Gus Schweinfurth, Peter Walshe, and Jim Wellington, and two Assistant Patrol Officers (APOs) Brian (BR) Dodd and Mick (MA) Widdup.

Despite the separation imposed by my remit to administer the mining areas and Ashton’s to administer the rest of the island, I continued to call on District staff when I needed extra personnel.

Ashton’s Kieta-based Deputy District Commissioner, Rick (RF) Hearne, also stood in for me when I was absent from Bougainville. (1) We were also provided with Police support, without which we would have achieved nothing.

For 18 months - until Sub-Inspector Daniel (DJ) Gire arrived in March 1967 - Dagge and I were reinforced by Senior Constable Yimbin (from Korogo village on the Sepik River) and his detachment at Barapina.

Other unit members also had exceptional police support for their activities. At Atamo and Mainoki, Assistant District Officer Warrillow relied on a Bougainvillean, Constable Narokai from Taroba village, as did ADO Read several years later at Morotana.

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Arawa and environs (Cartography by Bill Brown)

Another mainstay was Mining Warden Hec (HJ) McKenzie, who offered assistance and advice when he operated from ‘Mushroom Castle’, the house Dagge and I had acquired at Barapina in 1966. We protected him at Warden's Court hearings, despite arguing with him relentlessly, and missed his knowledge and good judgement when he jumped ship to become a Land Titles Commissioner in August 1970.

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Kiaps’ house at Barapina, 1967–71 (John Dagge)

Chief Land Titles Commissioner Denny (DJ) Kelliher laid the foundation for our strong association with the Land Titles Commission when he visited Panguna in July 1966.

He was hoping to determine the owners of Pankiranku spur, which was not only a disputed area but contained the richest ore. Kelliher did not achieve that objective, but the working relationship endured.

Bob (RI) MacIlwain, a former senior kiap in Kieta by now a Land Titles Commissioner, also used a bedroom at ‘Mushroom Castle’ in 1969 while determining ownership of the land around the Panguna mine site.

Senior Lands Title Commissioner Jack (WJ) Read DSC (2) wrote of that period: “We are singularly fortunate in having one of MacIlwain’s knowledge and application for the job in hand and in having an officer of Henderson’s knowledge and experience of the Panguna area.”

When MacIlwain shifted his operations from Panguna to the Pinei Valley, he extended his assistance, introducing Patrol Officer John Russell-Pell to the intricacies of the land titles process, as well as tutoring him in genealogies and the complexities of central Bougainville’s matrilineal system. (3)

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Land Titles Commissioner Bob MacIlwain with landowners, circa 1970. (Department of Information & Extension Services)

Public Solicitor Peter (WA) Lalor also became a frequent visitor to Bougainville after the arrest of Teori Tau at Pakia in October 1968 and was always willing to give incisive advice - and sometimes caustic criticism.

One of Lalor’s staff, Talbot Lovering, shared his knowledge of land law and valuation with us after he moved from Port Moresby to share the rest house at Pakia with Russell-Pell in 1969. (4)

We also were supported by the managers and staff of Radio Bougainville. Station Managers Geoffrey Heard, Ken Burslem and Sam Piniau helped us as the station developed at Kieta and Keith Jackson arrived from Rabaul as manager on 5 November 1969, one day before I became District Commissioner (Special Duties).

Our unit was seldom at full strength. Someone was always ill or absent on vacation, and romance was also in the air.

District Officer Ross (RW) Henderson married Bougainville Copper (BCL) accountant Judith Meadows, Patrol Officer Jim (JL) Wellington married Area Manager Colin Bishop's assistant, Teresa Laird, and Patrol Officer Gus (GH) Schweinfurth (5) became the first kiap to marry a Bougainvillean when he wedded Simon Kiha's daughter Evelyn (6) at Petats Island, Buka, in November 1969.

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Evelyn and Gus Schweinfurth on their wedding day

Schweinfurth’s marriage required his transfer from Kieta to Boku as officer-in-charge of the patrol post because no married accommodation was available in Kieta or Arawa.

I shifted District Officer Colin (CG) Sanderson from his tent camp at Guava on the ridge above Panguna, where he had spent five months with little achieved, to Morotana in the lower Jaba, where he was supplied with stove, refrigerator and vehicle.

Patrol Officer Brian (BR) Dodd replaced Sanderson at Guava and in two months secured the cooperation of many landowners, mapped the land boundaries and readied them for a survey by the contractors, Gallagher and Leet Pty Ltd.

When Bougainville Copper's Melbourne-based Assistant General Manager, Don (DC) Vernon, requested a conference with the newly established unit, we crammed into my small dog box at the District Office.

Vernon, Area Manager Bishop, District Officer Henderson, Patrol Officer Heggen and I completely filled the room. Patrol Officer Russell-Pell was required to stand in the doorway.

Vernon was cock-a-hoop about the rapid progress at Loloho. The Company had flattened the Loloho peninsula and headland and removed 1,000,000 tons of soil and soft rock to make a base for the power plant, fuel storage tanks and an enormous storage shed which would house 60,000 tons of copper slurry while it was oven-dried and stored for shipping.

And in generating capacity, the 135-megawatt power station would provide electricity that almost doubled the output of generators in the rest of Papua and New Guinea.

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Loloho Peninsula flattened to make way for the port and other installations

Vernon didn't like it when I asked him how the Company would get its electric power from the Loloho powerhouse to Panguna or the copper slurry from Panguna to the port when the Rorovana people, who owned a slab of the intervening land, had not been consulted.

And I wondered if the Company had learnt anything from the earlier Rorovana debacle when he implied the Administration hadn't made any progress in acquiring the Arawa village land. You should be pushing harder, he said.

Some senior officers in Port Moresby were also making ill-considered statements.

Three weeks earlier, Acting Assistant Administrator Bill Carter had told the media the draft plan for the new town, which would cover both Arawa plantation and Arawa village land, would be completed in Melbourne by the end of November.

The Administration was a long way from obtaining any title to the 640 acres they were seeking, and the villagers found Carter’s statement presumptuous and offensive.

Headman Narug and other villagers made this very clear when I accompanied the Administrator's negotiator, Bill Conroy, and solicitor Don MacKay to Arawa village on 27 November. The people declined to discuss any sale or lease of their land or speculate on any boundary.

Despite their aversion to intrusion and refusal to consider any loss of their land, the villagers agreed to a survey of the proposed northern boundary near Kaperia Creek and Bechtel (7) engineers producing cross-sections of the Bovo River.

04 kj 33 Arawa 03 01Arawa villagers with headmen Narug and Kori (in hat) listen to Max Heggen explaining the Arawa Agreement

They knew the engineers’ operation was restricted to the riverbed, and the surveyors were not allowed to disturb any vegetation. They knew PO Max Heggen was there to ensure the engineers only worked in the riverbed and the surveyors did not destroy any trees, palms or gardens.

After returning from a trip to Port Moresby on 5 December, I walked around the proposed boundary of the new town of Arawa with a derisive headman Narug, who said the people would not consider forfeiting so much land. Still, once again he agreed that the surveying could continue, and that any Land Titles Commissioner other than Kimmorley could determine the internal ownership boundaries if the Administration so wished.

Narug had refused to visit the District Office after District Commissioner Des Ashton had ordered him out of the building in 1968, but he was still happy to talk to kiaps Heggen, Russell-Pell and Schweinfurth, who would meet him in the village or at the roadside.

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Land Titles Commissioner Kim Kimmorley

He was also relaxed about me, and I made sure I chatted with him at least once a week and would respond whenever he sent a message about a problem.

Narug was usually thoughtful and reasonable. He listened, argued and often disagreed, but the records show I convinced him that his refusal to deal with Land Titles Commissioner Kimmorley was unreasonable.

Heggen had wasted many days acting as Kimmorley's driver during the Rorovana hearings in October, so when he returned in December, we set him up with well-worn Landrover registration A6801 so that he could drive himself.

On 8 January 1970, the day after I returned from another meeting in Port Moresby, we moved our operation from the Kieta District Office to the vacant old plantation house beside the road on the southern boundary of Arawa Plantation.

I packed my CRA files, maps and the four-drawer Chubb filing cabinet with a combination lock.

The files were thicker and we had more maps, but otherwise it was like a replay of when Ashton directed me to move to the District Office in August 1968.

Mrs Preston, formerly a stenographer and typist at District Office but now my assistant, established herself as gatekeeper at a desk inside the front door of what had been the lounge/dining room of the plantation house and positioned me on the other side of the see-through bookshelf room divider. Heggen set himself up with the transmitter, map cabinet, and other gear in what had been a bedroom.

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Kimmorley and landowners inspect a tract of land,  possibly in New Britain. Some village leaders found Kimmorley difficult to deal with 

My driver, William Poto, had to drive eight kilometres to Kieta with the daily situation reports (sitreps) for transmission to Port Moresby.

We didn't have a telephone; I couldn’t talk to Port Moresby or Kieta but I had a radio transceiver to talk with kiaps in the field.

Our radio network linking Arawa with kiaps at Barapina (Panguna), Guava, Pakia, and the base camp in the lower Jaba (Red Dot 4) was equipped with brand new TRA 906 Squadcal transceivers purchased by Director of Agriculture Bill Carter on a shopping spree in Australia.

Their single-sideband modulation produced a much stronger signal than the AWA A510 Army gear they replaced, and anybody eavesdropping with a conventional receiver heard only gobbledygook.

We installed the 30 portable houses - that Carter purchased for emergency accommodation - on the coastal strip across the road, an area controlled by Rovai Karankiri MM, a veteran of the Pacific War. (8)

The $7,000 units were 40 foot by 10 foot rectangular airless hotboxes containing two small bedrooms, a kitchenette, a shower recess and a toilet. Moresby decreed that fifteen were for single officers and fifteen for married couples. Within a week they were all occupied.

Rinus (TC) and Margie (MR) Van Schilfgaarde, relocated from temporary accommodation in McKillop's former home, were among the first occupants.

The recently married Agricultural Officers were returning from Australia to a new posting in Papua when Bill Conroy diverted them to Bougainville.

Margie, vying with morning sickness for the first time, was not happy with the move but added charm and youthful enthusiasm to our activities.

We needed three vehicles to transport Federal Opposition leader Gough (GW) Whitlam and his party from the airstrip to Panguna for lunch, a site inspection and return to Kieta via Loloho on 9 January 1970.

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Bougainville District Headquarters (1971-74) alongside Tupekas Creek and (upper left) Arawa’s first primary school, formerly the New Guinea Biological Foundation 

At the recently completed District Commissioner’s residence, which was Ashton’s pride and joy, the 194 cm tall, broad-shouldered and robust Whitlam had difficulty fitting into one of the two single beds in the guest wing.

On the morning of departure, giving his shoes a buff, Whitlam placed a foot on the hand basin, which broke from the wall, the gushing water flooded the parquet floor, much to the Ashtons' dismay.

Espie stressed the need for accelerated construction and development at Arawa during the joint meeting in Port Moresby on 6 January 1970.

CRA Chairman Maurice Mawby did not attend but wrote to Prime Minister Gorton in Canberra complaining that, while the mine and treatment plant would be completed on schedule, tardiness in constructing Arawa town could set back the opening of the mine.

Mawby’s four-page letter focused the Prime Minister and Canberra's attention on Panguna, Arawa and the draft cabinet submission prepared by External Territories with CRA's aid.

The Company planned to mine 30 million tons of ore containing 150,000 tons of copper, 500,000 ounces of silver and one million ounces of gold in the first year of operation. The gold and silver content would be valued at $A940 million (K2.3 billion) at May 2020 prices.

The cabinet submission proposed Arawa would be a joint town with construction costs shared 60-40 by the Administration and Bougainville Copper. The Administration would spend $A70.9 million ($893.34 million or K2.2 billion) in today's dollars. $27.5 million was allocated to Arawa town and the Kieta-Tunuru Road, $18.4 million to other capital works and $25 million to purchase a 20% equity in the Company.

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Charles (Ceb) Barnes

In March I was in Australia on a two-month break and Rick Hearne was acting Chief Liaison Officer when Australia’s Minister for External Territories, Charles (CE) Barnes, visited Kieta, Panguna, Buin and Buka, meeting with leaders of the Hahalis Welfare Association, local government councillors, and Napidakoe Navitu.

The latter asked for a referendum to determine Bougainville's independence and, according to its secretary Barry Middlemiss, requested that the Minister remove Des Ashton from his position of District Commissioner, Bougainville.

When Land Titles Commissioner Kimmorley returned to Bougainville on 1 June 1970, the Arawa landowners, who had previously determined they would never sell, reluctantly agreed to lease the land known as Siokatei to the Administration.

Seven days later, Kimmorley declared that five clans owned the 372.75 acres and appointed 11 agents to act for them in leasing them to the Administration. The area provided less than two-thirds of the Administration's original demand. (9)

Two of the landowners I had been working with, Narug and Tavora –  who Ashton had ordered out of the District Office in May 1969 – were among the appointed agents and responsible for 23.5% of the land. Gorai from Pok Pok, Pipinai from Bairema and nine other agents from Arawa were appointed.

I was surprised that Kieta Council President Raphael Niniku was not an agent. Maybe he was overreaching in March 1969, when he said he would swap land on Tautsina Island for his Arawa land. But in June he offered to sell the land for $100 an acre plus $5 for each coconut tree provided the sale was not made public.

My records do not reveal when the Administration approved the ex gratia payments discussed earlier, but on 9 June 1970, we collected Narug, his wife and daughter from the village, drove them to Commonwealth Savings Bank in Kieta, and handed them the top-up payment of $17,655 for 22 acres near Loloho purchased for $1,600 on 15 July 1969.

On 24 June, Heggen paid the owners of the 49-acre industrial lease at Itakara the first of 41 annual ex gratia payments for that lease.

Prime Minister Gorton did not discuss the Arawa land negotiations when he visited Kieta on 10 July 1970. At the public meeting outside the Council Chambers, he thanked Paul Lapun and Raphael Bele for visiting Canberra and more particularly for their help in solving the Rorovana conflict. He upset many people when he said it was too soon to discuss a referendum on Bougainville secession. 

Lapun and Bele had received hand-delivered invitations to the informal luncheon Mr and Mrs Gorton hosted and joined them and others to the picnic on the council lawn.

When Gorton's private secretary, 22-year-old Ainsley Gotto, berated Ashton and me for not arranging it more to her satisfaction, I felt like a raw recruit being dressed down by a drill sergeant.

In July 1970 Ashton was disturbed when he learned I was transferring District Officer Colin Sanderson, whose work I was dissatisfied with, from Morotana. "Please do not transfer this officer from Chief Liaison Officer's staff to me,” Ashton appealed to headquarters, “I do not consider he is suited to cope with the present situation in the Bougainville District."

Headquarters knew I regarded Morotana as a critical posting, so when I called for support and received a junior Patrol Officer, I fired off an explosive radiogram: "For Ellis from Brown. Morotana / lower Jaba requires a mature and experienced officer. He must be able to communicate and handle difficult situations. D'Abbs does not - repeat not - meet these criteria. Please find an experienced officer." 

The radiogram produced a swift reaction. Assistant District Officer Warren (WR) Read, previously acting Assistant District Commissioner at Tapini in the Central District, arrived a few weeks later. (11)

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Discussing the Arawa Agreement: Barry Middlemiss, Bill Brown, Bill Conroy, Colin Bishop and David (DN) Brown, the Regional Development Officer

Conroy and MacKay came back to Bougainville on 4 August 1970, met with Arawa landowners and then haggled for a week trying to sort out a deal that satisfied them.

After 11 days, the landowners agreed to lease Siokatei to the Administration for 99 years at an annual rental of $50 per acre payable six-monthly in advance and reassessed every seven years.

The Administration would pay $40,058.16 compensation for the loss of economic trees and food crops and, in an historic first, would compensate for the loss of collecting rights in the virgin forest.

The Administration would also build a dual-lane road to the village from the main Kieta-Tunuru Road, arrange piped water and electricity, and lease two acres of commercial land in the new town to the landowners or other Bougainvilleans.

Even though it was not a party to the agreement, Bougainville Copper committed to establishing an enterprise company to operate businesses, including a supermarket and a tavern in Arawa town. The company would have at least 49% Bougainvillean shareholders.

In covenants, the Administration agreed to use the land only for residential purposes and to establish a high school and a technical school. Furthermore, to assuage the Company's fear of squatter settlements developing, the landowners agreed they would only permit agricultural development, including garden houses, on adjacent land to the west, ‘kil bilong Arawa’.

Did the legal experts use the Tok Pisin phrase ‘kil bilong Arawa’ instead of ‘the mountain ridge belonging to Arawa’ to confuse? I wondered whether anyone had determined its area or boundaries, and whether the landowners had any rights to it.

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Kori of Arawa, Bill Conroy, Bill Brown, Colin Bishop and headman Narug

The people from Buin in the south and Buka in the north were incredulous when Radio Bougainville broadcast the price paid to rent the land. Others learnt about the agreement's finer details from the March 1971 issue of Napidakoe Navitu's Bougainville News.

Rabaul's Trinity Press converted the English original into a two-column format and republished it verbatim together with a truncated version of kiap Heggen's official Tok-Pisin translation.

Espie wanted Arawa town excised from the Kieta Local Government Council's bailiwick and a United States-style authority to run it, and got his wish when the Administration established the Arawa Municipal Commission on 10 December 1970.

A four-person Commission would manage the town for an initial three years: a Chief Commissioner appointed by the Administration; a Commissioner nominated by Bougainville Copper; a Commissioner selected from the adjoining rural communities and a Commissioner appointed to represent the residents.

Each would have a deputy to stand in for them when required. I was appointed Chief Commissioner. (12) (13)

The Administration and the Company insisted on monthly meetings even though they were not productive. Construction had just begun at Arawa, there were no permanent houses, and the only residents were in the 30 Administration hot boxes.

The Commission met monthly and the Arawa battles continued in the joint meetings in Port Moresby. Espie baulked at Deputy Administrator Tony (AJ) Newman's demand that the low covenant houses have outside bucket toilets.

When they agreed that all accommodation in Arawa town must be connected to the sewer, I spent the rest of the day opposing the proposal to pump raw sewage into Arawa Bay.

Supporting me, Espie insisted that Arawa sewage receive tertiary treatment before it reached the sea. Maybe he was worried by my prediction of a massive reaction from the villages around Arawa Bay who regularly harvested the beaches for shellfish.

When Mrs Preston resigned and Max Heggen departed on six months' leave, we struggled in the Arawa office until Mick Widdup inadvertently solved the problem.

Returning from his morning rounds on 4 January 1971, he reported a married couple squatting in a former plantation house. The husband was not present, but Widdup had instructed a young lady to vacate.

When I interviewed 24-year-old slim, elegant and well-dressed Mrs Barbara Merrilyn Williams a few hours later, she told me she had been a secretary before becoming an air hostess and would be happy to work for us if she and her husband Peter could continue to occupy the house.

Barbara Williams started the next day, took control of the Arawa Office and sought challenges. A few weeks later, Administrator Les Johnson chided me when he received my commentary on a patrol report signed ‘BM Williams for WT Brown, Chief Liaison Officer’.

With a royal visit pending, the Administrator and Mrs Johnson flew into Bougainville on Monday, 15 March 1971. Poto and I took them on a sightseeing tour of Arawa, Loloho and Panguna the next day while Ashton ensured Kieta town received a spruce up.

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Britannia at anchor in Kieta harbour

The Royal Yacht Britannia dropped anchor in Kieta harbour at 6 pm on 17 March. Two hours later, Prince Phillip hosted the Johnsons, the three Bougainville Members of the House of Assembly and their wives, the Ashtons and the Browns to dinner on board.

The following day, Poto drove the Duke to Panguna for an inspection and lunch with Company staff. Poto and Sub-Inspector Arek shared the front seat, the Duke and I behind. With the two-day fanfare complete, the Britannia and the Duke departed for Madang at 6 pm on the Friday.

When the Ashtons departed on leave on 20 March, they knew they would be returning to Manus, not Bougainville.

Ellis relayed instructions from headquarters that Pamela and I were to move into the District Commissioner's residence and was irate when we took five or six days to do so.

We had to be there before the German Ambassador to Australia, Heinz Voigt, and his wife Helga arrived for a two-night visit during the second week of April.

Our numbers increased when Harry Roach (14) landed at Aropa airport on a non-stop charter from Aitape in the Sepik District a few hours before Britannia dropped anchor on 18 March and acting Deputy District Commissioner Jack Karukuru (15) arrived a week or so later.

Roach's role was to kick-start the moribund Arawa Municipal Commission. He had it running smoothly soon after his arrival. Karukuru went straight into representing me around what now was a major, and complex, project.

In May 1972, Bougainville Copper’s Managing Director Frank Espie caused shivers in Canberra and Port Moresby when he was reported as saying:

Brown Espie
Frank Espie

“In mining, hard facts and foresight are important. We have to be realistic, and that is why we are very conscious of the fact that in a few years, Papua and New Guinea may be independent.

"Soon there may be an indigenous administration – call it a black president if you like – and we will have to live and work with it. We must behave ourselves in such a way that when a black president comes, we will be welcome to stay.

“Living with a black president in Port Moresby is only part of the problem, as there may well come a time when a native Bougainvillean leader may also appear on the scene, making the political background even more complex.”

In Bougainville, I was resisting Deputy Administrator Tony Newman's heavy hand pushing me to move the District Headquarters from Kieta to Arawa. There was no space available in Arawa, Rick Hearne was running the District and I already had too much on my plate.

It took our superiors more than six months until 30 April 1971 to confirm my promotion as District Commissioner, Arawa. Three weeks later, on 20 May, I appeared to revert to Deputy District Commissioner when the Administrator gazetted a notice authorising me to administer an oath of office. Maybe somebody missed reading a couple of gazettes.

I caved into Newman’s demands after the Post-Courier reported my appointment as District Commissioner Bougainville and Ken Brown's appointment as District Commissioner Western District on 16 July 1971.

I asked Karukuru and Roach to move our base into McKillop's refurbished homestead. Hearne would relocate District Headquarters – staff, furniture, and files – to the same locale while I was out of the way at the District Commissioners Conference in Port Moresby. The small Treasury and Business Development teams would follow.

I needed to catch up with Jack Emanuel again. At the Conference in 1970, we had talked about the difficulties of working as the District Commissioner (Special Duties) alongside the regular District Commissioner and how we were not related, even though my mother's maiden name was Emanuel. Since then, Emanuel had replaced Harry West in Rabaul, and I had assumed control of Bougainville from Ashton. We needed to chat about the threats and hazards in our respective jurisdictions.

Jack Emanuel
Jack Emanuel and Superintendent Ernest Young with members of the police riot squad and angry Gazelle Peninsula villagers

When Emanuel and I left Port Moresby on 31 July, Ellis farewelled the two of us with his habitual caution, "Watch your backs!"

Our Fokker Friendship aircraft departed an hour apart; Emanuel's to Rabaul via Lae, and mine a direct flight to Kieta. I never saw him again. Less than three weeks later, at 9 am on 19 August 1971, he was murdered at Kabaira Bay on the north-coast road about 40 kilometers from Rabaul.

Later that day, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier carried the stark front-page headline, ‘Rabaul DC Killed’, and more than 8,000 members of the Gazelle Peninsula’s multi-racial community attended the funeral service on the following afternoon.

Two days later, the Post-Courier’s Drum gossip column reported:

“Quite an investigation going on among students at the University of Papua and New Guinea. They are trying to track down the author of the note on the university noticeboard, which followed the assassination of District Commissioner Emanuel. It was ripped down within minutes of being posted. It read simply: ‘One down— 17 to go’.” (16)

In Arawa, we held a quiet wake at the new District Headquarters on the afternoon of the funeral. Emanuel's tragic death was largely unnoticed by the transient expatriate workforce around us focussed on building a new town.

The Bechtel supervisors had deadlines. The town roads, steel bridges and houses were well in hand but had to be completed on time. The 200-bed hospital, police station, schools and town water supply had more extended deadlines, but the pressure was relentless.

Arawa was one of four concurrent developments in the mining development. Heavy equipment was tearing the Pinei Valley apart to construct the port-mine access road; the open-cut mine was being gouged out of the Crown Prince Range; and there were unsuccessful attempts to store waste rock and tailings in the Jaba Valley on the western fall.

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The access road between Arawa and Panguna

The construction destroyed vegetation. It polluted or poisoned rivers and gardens. And it caused the relocation of many villages.

It was a time of development, construction and dislocation. It was not a happy time.

On 22 September 1971, Tom Ellis advised me the government had decided not to fill the position of District Commissioner Bougainville; and that I would carry out the function while designated 'District Commissioner (Chief Liaison Officer, Arawa)'.

More gobbledegook. So much for the Post-Courier's July announcement of my appointment.


  1. Richard (Rick) Fosser Hearne, born in March 1929 in Perth Western Australia, became a Cadet Patrol Officer in June 1950. After a term at Abau he was the Patrol Officer in charge of the Goilala patrol post at Urun. In January 1968, he became District Officer (Local Government) at Sohano, Bougainville, and acting Deputy District Commissioner when district headquarters moved to Kieta.

  2. 04 kj 4169150
    Jack Read DSC
    Jack (WJ) Read, a pre-war kiap on Bougainville and a Coastwatcher during the war, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the United States of America. In the post-war period, he was District Officer and then District Commissioner, New Ireland, until he resigned in May 1951

  3. Barely into his second term, John Russell-Pell spent days with Bob MacIlwain learning how to do genealogies. He had not been exposed to land matters in his first term at Kiunga in the Western District of Papua

  4. Talbot Lovering, born in Wales in 1922 and a chartered surveyor, arrived in Australia after 18 years working on land matters in Kenya. He qualified as a valuer and lawyer while employed in the Valuer-General’s office in Tasmania

  5. Goetz (Gus) Heinrich Schweinfurth, born in January 1947 in Berlin, Germany, was seven years of age when he arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, with his parents and elder brother. After becoming a Cadet Patrol Officer in June 1966, he was posted to Bougainville, serving at Sohano, Boku, Buin and Kieta. He played an active role at Arawa and Rorovana. After PNG's independence, he became a Provincial Secretary and was awarded the OBE

  6. Evelyn Kiha, a trainee Broadcast Officer, returned to Radio Bougainville on 9 October 1969 after completing a two-month training course at Department of Information and Extension Services headquarters in Konedobu. Her father, Simon Kiha, was a Clerical Assistant in the Kieta District Office for more than 10 years

  7. Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction company in the USA, formed a joint venture with California-based Western Knapp Engineering to manage the Bougainville operation. Syd (SB) Ford took over from Dick (RF) Grambow as Project Manager in October 1969

  8. Sergeant Rovai (R792) had been a member of Z Special Unit in the Australian Army. He was awarded the Military Medal after the detachment he led destroyed ammunition dumps behind Arawa and rescued a priest held by the enemy without firing a shot

  9. Area 1, Portoni, Narug of Arawa, 10.88%. Area 2. Buwu, Narug of Arawa, 13.7%. Area 2a. Buwu North, Tavora of Arawa, 92%. Area 3. Iravai, Gorai of PokPok, 4.91%. Area 3a. Iravai, Domaina of Arawa, 0.65%. Area 4. Sikiumau, Sipura of Arawa, 2.84%. Area 5. Sikiumau, Kori of Arawa 3.78%. Area 6. Bidau, Bomarua of Arawa 5.68%. Area 7. Ieiagona, Kabukini of Arawa 28.8%. Area 8. Barakau, Savore of Arawa and Pipiniai of Bairima 24.78%. Area 9. Karumana, Pira of Arawa 3.06%

  10. Michael John D’Abbs, born in India in August 1947, was youthful and enthusiastic when transferred from Kainantu to Kieta in August 1970. He did not have the maturity required for the complex situation in the Morotana region but proved his worth at and around Panguna

  11. Assistant District Officer Warren (WJ) Read was 30 years of age and in transit between Tapini and Kwikila when my radiogram arrived. He had acted as Assistant District Commissioner at Tapini for the six months prior to his transfer to Bougainville

  12. Chief Commissioner WT Brown, Deputy Commissioner RF Hearne; CRA: CP Bishop (Commissioner), EE Demmler (Deputy); Communities: R Avero (Commissioner, Kupe village), P Tiona (Deputy, Bairema village), Residents: MM Van Schilfgaarde (Commissioner), MM Kavanaugh (Deputy)

  13. Tony (AJ) Richardson, the Department of External Territories' newest Bougainville expert, was mistaken or misleading in the paper he delivered to the ANU Seminar in Canberra in 1971 when he stated the Commission included "representatives of the adjoining Kieta Local Government Council". It did not, and his statement that their representation of the Council was necessary because of the expansion of the port facilities, increased building, and light industries supporting mining at Kieta was just one of several distortions

  14. Harry (Joseph Henry) Roach was ensconced as Assistant District Commissioner at Aitape in the West Sepik District when he was transferred to Bougainville as Executive Officer, Arawa Municipal Commission. Harry and Betty Roach’s direct charter to Aropa airport arrived a few hours before Prince Phillip to find no welcoming committee. They lived in Kieta until a house was completed for them in Arawa in February 1972

  15. Twenty-eight-year-old Jack Kovea Karukuru, from Malalaua in the Gulf District, had been a kiap for 10 years when he was appointed acting Deputy District Commissioner and posted to the Liaison Office in March 1971. He completed an executive development program at the Administrative College and had been Assistant District Commissioner at Gembogl, Chimbu District

  16. As District Commissioner of East New Britain Jack (EJ) Emanuel was one of 18 serving District Commissioners when he was murdered


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Bill Brown MBE

I made an error in identification in the Arawa village photos in Kiap's Chronicle chapters 32 and 33.

The error has now been corrected thanks to Therese Jaintong, daughter of Raphael Niniku, and Pokpok Chief Peter Garuai, facilitated by Greg McPhee of BCL, Port Moresby.

Bernard Corden

Back in 2020, Frank Espie's son, Paul Espie AO, sold his Darling Point trophy home for approximately $25 million and a weekender on Pacific Road, overlooking Palm Beach on Pittwater Peninsula, to spend more time at the family's cattle grazing property in Dungog, several hours north of Sydney.

I expect the local river is uncontaminated and unlikely to contain any mining waste.

Chris Overland

Bill has once again described the intricate machinations and politics that surrounded the establishment of the Panguna mine.

It is notable that it was the kiaps who were most committed to protecting the interests of the local people yet, paradoxically, they were in the forefront of the administration's efforts to win their 'hearts and minds'.

This was an invidious position to be in for the kiaps, one of whose primary tasks was to protect and promote the interests of the local people for whom they were the public face of a distant colonial authority.

I wonder if the PNG government has people on the ground in Bougainville now who have a similar task or, at the very least, serve as their 'eyes and ears' at village level? I somehow doubt it.

Well done Bill. I look forward to the continuing story.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I always look forward to the next episode in this masterful series, especially now that it is building up to the final stages.

Bill's meticulous attention to detail has changed the way I research and write, I'm a lot more careful than I used to be.

The end result is going to be a fine historical document and a gift to the people of Bougainville.

Keith Jackson

Another action-packed chapter on the complex development of the Panguna mine, Loloho port, Arawa town and the precipitous access road through the Crown Prince Range linking coast to mine while administering a population far from convinced of the changes that are taking place.

Land is purchased at prices regarded as unbelievable in the north and south of the island. The people of central Bougainville demand a referendum on secession and are aggrieved when Australian prime minister John Gorton won't even discuss it.

Meanwhile Bill Brown is appointed conjoint District Commissioner over both the mining zone and the district: while his predecessor as District Commissioner, Des Ashton, is transferred to Manus.

The Duke of Edinburgh visits and the murder of District Commissioner Jack Emanuel in the Gazelle Peninsula sends a chill through the entire Territory of PNG - things will never be the same again.

All this and more provides another riveting episode of Bill Brown's masterful inside story of the project that gave PNG the revenue it needed to make independence viable - but was also to lead to a bloody civil war.

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