VISITORS to Orange’s Papua New Guinean sister city Mount Hagen were greeted with rubbish littering the streets of the town and a community with little pride, according to Cr Russell Turner, but Orange City Council should not give up trying to help.
Cr Turner and sister cities committee chair Cr Chris Gryllis returned from their self-funded trip with council staff last week.
It was Cr Turner’s first visit to PNG and he described it as an eye-opener.
“I was very disappointed with the overall ambiance and the rubbish and garbage littering the streets,” he said.
“I thought to myself on a number of occasions, it doesn’t matter how poor you are you can still be clean and have pride in your surroundings.
“We can only hope there is a turning point close by.”
Mount Hagen has 100,000 official residents and thousands of refugees living in illegal camps tolerated by authorities on the edge of town.
Cr Turner said several return visitors in the council contingent felt the city’s growth was going backwards.
“We visited one of the schools and we were told that over the years because of the increase in the number of schools most students have basic education,” he said.
“But there’s a lot who are disheartened because they can’t find jobs.
“Unemployment is a huge issue and so is security.”
It was Cr Gryllis’s eighth visit to PNG in the past 24 years and as always he was welcomed by the local people.
But he said there was some tension because of the local government elections under way.
He is now negotiating with an Australian computer company about setting up a better system to help Mount Hagen council collect its rates and also hopes the council will be able to help Mount Hagen with waste management issues.
Discussions continued about plans to offer PNG people apprenticeships and advanced training with Jeff Hort Engineering in Orange, and Cr Gryllis is also hopeful a rugby league exchange will happen early next year.
Cr Turner said the country hoped growth in mining and the liquid natural gas industry would help improve the economy, but only if it could stamp out corruption.
He said he was unaware of the depth of Orange council’s involvement with the sister city and the amount of time and effort staff had put into assisting Mount Hagen council to attract federal Ausaid funding until the visit.
But with the Australian federal election looming and the funding schemes almost running out, Cr Turner said it was a waiting game to see what more money was available.