Managing Key Landowner Issues within the Context of the Proposed PNG/QLD Hydroproject “Wabo Project”
Rebecca Ogann Kiage BCom (Bus Eco), MPPM
Project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc (Energy and Resources), UCL School of Energy and Resources, Australia
The proposed PNG/QLD hydropower project, known as the “Wabo project”, has the backing of both the Queensland and the PNG governments and is viewed as PNG’s hope to address their energy security issues and to accelerate economic growth. However, like other large-scale hydropower projects, the Wabo project will have significant social, economic and environmental costs to the local communities and is likely to trigger social tensions amid growing political and environmental opposition. For the proposed project to gain acceptance in PNG, it is important that appropriate policies and laws are implemented to safeguard the interests of the local community. Policies in respect to land compensation, resettlement and other benefit sharing mechanisms need to be in place in PNG if the Wabo project is to progress. PNG’s natural resources development history demonstrates that striving for real consensus and incorporating landowner considerations are key elements to a successful large infrastructure project. The objective guiding this research is to identify appropriate, existing laws and policies in PNG to manage landowner considerations stemming from the Wabo project. In order to achieve this objective, this study examines relevant laws and policies in PNG’s electricity sector, as well as the mining and petroleum sectors, and examines the Kutubu oil project as a case study to demonstrate how landowner considerations are managed under the current benefit sharing regime. The study reveals that although there are laws in place that recognise and protect property rights in PNG, to date government has largely failed to implement and utilise these laws to develop appropriate corrective development policies and frameworks to safeguard affected populations. If this trend persists, ownership and control issues will continue, the goals of the PNG Constitution will continue to be contradicted, and the future development of the Wabo project will be threatened.