Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

150416 HOM Speech_Official opening of Oro bridges reconstruction project

Address at the official celebration of the Oro bridges reconstruction project


Australia’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, HE Ms Deborah Stokes

Oro Province

Thursday 16 April 2015

• Honourable Governor Gary Juffa;
• Secretary for Works and Implementation, Mr David Wereh;
• Secretary for Transport, Mr Roy Mumu; and
• Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning everyone. It is my great pleasure to be here today to celebrate the Oro Bridges Reconstruction Project.

I wish to thank Secretary Wereh and the Department of Works for all the hard work in hosting this important event and also acknowledge Governor Juffa for his support of the project.

This project will replace four bridges damaged by Cyclone Guba.

Cyclone Guba was a terrible tragedy which devastated communities across Oro Province.

While the focus of today’s event is the bridges we are building, it’s important to remember that Cyclone Guba resulted in the loss of many lives – and to acknowledge the suffering caused to the many families and communities who lost their loved ones.

On this note I’d like to express my sympathy for the victims of Cyclone Guba – and my admiration for the resilience of the people of Oro in recovering from this tragedy.

This project represents an important step in the recovery process. It is a major joint investment for PNG and the Australian Government, with a total value of approximately 139 million kina.

Together, we will replace the bridges lost in Cyclone Guba with new bridges which are durable, fit-for-purpose and safer for pedestrians and all road users.

The project is being managed by the PNG-Australia Transport Sector Support Program as part of a partnership between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Australia which continues Australia’s long term commitment to the transport sector in Papua New Guinea.

Why does Australia invest in transport infrastructure in partnership with PNG?

It is because we have a shared vision of achieving a safe, reliable transport system to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and promote economic and social development in Papua New Guinea.

The construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure across Papua New Guinea is vital to ensuring that people are able to live healthy, productive and well-connected lives.

Transport infrastructure is particularly vital to improve the lives of people in PNG’s rural communities where the majority of the country lives.

Bridges allow more reliable travel across otherwise impassable rivers at all times of the year.

It is most pleasing to be able to celebrate today so close to the Popondetta market.

Sellers and buyers here will benefit from safer and more reliable access thanks to this major investment project.

This can make a tangible difference to the day-to-day lives of so many people and communities.

Reliable, well-built and properly maintained transport infrastructure lowers the cost of doing business and enables governments and the private sector to provide goods and services for communities more efficiently.

Roads and bridges are at the heart of economic growth and access to services.

The Oro Bridges Reconstruction Project is an integral part of this process.

Through this project, bridges will be constructed at Eroro, Girua, Ambogo and Kumusi and will serve the people of this province from the coast at Oro Bay right through to the airport, market, Kokoda and beyond.

I was pleased to visit the site at Kumusi today, which allows us to start to see the real difference these bridges will make.

The bridge at Kumusi is particularly noteworthy. Not just because it will serve as the gateway to Kokoda but because it represents a technical milestone for PNG.

Once work is complete, Kumusi will be home to PNG’s longest two-lane bridge at 285 metres – a real achievement.

The scale of construction is truly impressive.

The bridge at Girua has piles that are driven more than 18 metres below the surface to support the bridge deck – this is equivalent to a six storey building being placed in the ground.

This impressive work is being undertaken by the construction company for this project, Canstruct, utilising an innovative prefabrication methodology to maximise efficiency and minimise potential weather-related delays.

Canstruct will be prefabricating the steel piles, headstocks and bridge beams in factory conditions.

This approach will ensure that potential on-site fabrication and construction issues will be decreased, and that the time required for the construction program will be reduced.

While the focus of this project is the construction of the four new bridges, the project scope also includes a variety of important preparatory and maintenance works which will ensure that these new bridges should be able to withstand severe weather events, such as cyclones and flooding, well into the future.

The Australian Government - through the Transport Sector Support Program - has worked closely with the Department of Works in the design of these bridges.

All works are being carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Works Specifications for Roads and Bridge Works.

I would like to offer my thanks to the management team from the Department of Works, especially the Secretary David Wereh and the Provincial Works Manager – John Puri, for their tireless efforts on the project to date.

There have been a number of challenges in getting the project to this point – complex topographical studies due to changes in river courses; ongoing weather delays; and the negotiation and implementation of various cultural and land acquisition settlements.

The Department of Works has been instrumental in providing expertise and assistance in working through these challenges.

The Department has also constructed temporary crossings at each of the bridge sites. Bailey bridges at Eroro, Girua and Kumusi, and a timber log bridge at the Ambogo river crossing will provide continued access for people and business while the new bridges are being constructed.

The Australian Government is delighted to provide funding towards this project to support better access to markets and services, and strengthen economic and private sector growth for the people of Oro. Alongside the support provided for communities through the Kokoda Initiative, these bridges are a cornerstone of the Australia Government’s commitment to the region.

Indeed it is fitting that we are celebrating the construction of these bridges which open access to Kokoda so close to ANZAC Day, when we will mark the enduring partnership between Australia and PNG forged during times of war.

We are building these bridges together in the same spirit of partnership.

While they are without doubt a significant piece of economic infrastructure, they also serve as a very tangible symbol of the deep and special friendship which connects the peoples of Papua New Guinea and Australia.