PNG needs construction players: O'Neill

IN his address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill discussed the need for competition in Papua New Guinea’s construction sector, how future PNG LNG revenue will be spent and reaffirmed his views against BHP Billiton.
PNG needs construction players: O'Neill PNG needs construction players: O'Neill PNG needs construction players: O'Neill PNG needs construction players: O'Neill PNG needs construction players: O'Neill

With the PNG coalition government aiming to spend big on addressing the country's lack of infrastructure up to at least 2017, O'Neill made it clear he wants involvement from Australian companies in PNG's small construction scene.

He believes there is an opportunity for Australian contractors, especially because the mining and petroleum industries in PNG are "not slowing down".

But the PM also stressed that fly-in, fly-out type work was not suitable because the government wanted to work with contractors who would make a long-term commitment to PNG, which included training up local workers.

One of the biggest challenges facing the government is the maintenance and upgrade of the crucial Highlands Highway. O'Neill expects there is 10 billion kina ($A4.6 billion) of work required, which is why the government is spreading it out over several years.

In regards to the windfall revenue the government is expecting from the PNG LNG project, which is on track to start exports in 2014, O'Neill revealed the government aimed to invest strongly in agriculture to take advantage of the country's under-utilised but abundant land and fertile soil, plus its largely rural population.

He is open to receiving Australia assistance in this endeavour, and believes the agricultural industry is the future once mining and petroleum resources are depleted.

O'Neill reaffirmed his previously reported views that BHP Billiton should no longer have directors on the board of PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited, a company setup by BHP to own the bulk of Ok Tedi Mining Limited after it exited the Ok Tedi mine and PNG in 2002.

The leader also discussed the government's goals of fighting corruption. He called it a cancer and said it was a deterrent to "good foreign investment".

O'Neill further name dropped the Wafi-Golpu project (50:50 Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold) as on track to becoming one of the world's largest copper-gold mines.

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