Photo Mission 49: Friends, food & Japs
‘Incredible’ Kostas Constantinou dies at 66

The very risky business of investing in PNG


Degen    plantation homestead before

Degen      plantation homestead after
The plantation homestead before and its demolition by villagers angry at the PNG government's land use practices

MADANG – I’m an investor in the Papua New Guinean agricultural and livestock industry and purchased a state agricultural lease on the north coast near Madang.

By August last year, I had paid all the required fees and charges like stamp duty and assured myself that the title was clear.

Our hope from the beginning was to develop the plantation which would also assist the local community in terms of employment.

However, from day one we had nothing but trouble from the nearby village.

We went there with police from Madang to explain we were the new owners, however this fell on deaf ears.

According to one of the clans, the government lease was not recognised.

From the beginning, the villagers were continually stealing cacao, coconuts and other crops from the land, but we decided not to do much to stop them.

But this behaviour later escalated with assaults of my employees, attempted arson and theft from the plantation house. These incidents became almost daily events.

However, the violence became much worse about two months ago when there was an attempt on the life of our caretaker.

He immediately fled to Madang and by the time we came to inspect the place, the destruction was beyond words.

The house had been totally stripped to its concrete base.

I reported these crimes to the Talledig police station but I was told that nothing much could be done as there had obviously been widespread theft by the entire local community, otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible for the destruction to have occurred so quickly.

At another level of contemplation, this led me to question how the PNG government expects there to be investment in the agricultural sector when there are people who are able to work outside the law to prevent or inhibit this form of development.

Now I have heard on good authority that a group called Katim Nek [Throat Cutters] has been established along the north coast to prevent investment of any kind.

When this sort of behaviour occurs it’s hard not to think of the Australia-Papua New Guinea ministerial forum in February this year observing….

“PNG's renewed focus on agriculture as a key part of its development strategy, and agreement by leaders to deepen cooperation in this sector, including ways to build on Australia's significant investments across infrastructure, development of key commodities, and biosecurity.

“Ministers recognised the important role of trade in agricultural commodities in supporting livelihoods and contributing to food security. Ministers for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries met in the sidelines of the Ministerial Forum to advance these objectives.”

Meanwhile, I am still looking for justice but I'm unsure if and when this might happen.


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William Dunlop

Fashion blong all, Tony. What's yours is mine, and what's mine is my own.

Pigs might yet fly one of these years.

No pun intended or implied on Piaggio's Bill Chapman.

Tony Degen

I was just a bit surprised that 60% of 800 villagers are involved in copra production, onsidering the only significant stand of coconuts is located on Songkain Plantation, which happens to be owned by my wife and I.

And what of the other 40%, what do they do with their time? WelI, I can attest to the constant stealing and the arson, theft of buai [betel nut] and cacao, and the assaults and threats to the lives of my workers.

As to the people who proudly walked around in 2021 showing off their new cocoa dryer, they knew the main culprits who totally demolished and removed all the building material from my house and took it to Mirap village.

Nogat sem disla vilis stilman vilis. You and your coming generations will always be cursed.

Lindsay F Bond

As to the "government lease was not recognised", it is said the same is happening with 'leases' adopted in earlier times for religious organisations.

The pressure being felt now is that the local folk want land that may once have been their traditional right.

"There are some security issues around the Convent’s access road with families moving onto church land, claiming it as family land" reported the PNG Church Partnership, Summer 2023 Newsletter.

PNGCP is the UK-based mission agency dedicated to raising awareness of, and support for, the Anglican Church in PNG.

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