Australian defence spending in Papua New Guinea to provide business opportunities


The imminent upgrade of defence facilities on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island should provide significant opportunities for local business and labour, according to Australia’s Department of Defence. But the selection requirements are likely to be demanding.

An artist’s impression of the upgraded Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island. Credit: Clough Australia

Next month, work is scheduled to start in earnest on the K146 million project to upgrade the Lombrum Naval Base on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Ostensibly a joint initiative of the Australian and PNG governments, the project is being funded by the Australian government as part of its strategic Pacific Step-up initiative.

The project, early works for which commenced in June 2020, involves the refurbishing and rebuilding of community buildings, accommodation, training buildings and critical infrastructure such as water, sewage and power. The upgrade, which will incorporate an environmentally sustainable design, is due for completion in 2023.

‘Proof of past performance in the Pacific” would be a key criterion when selecting contractors.’

The head contractor for the project is engineering and construction company Clough Australia, but there will be work for a number of subcontractors, and the creation of 350 jobs, 200 of which will be on Manus.

‘The project provides a unique opportunity in creating opportunities for the local community, suppliers, and talent,’ John Galvin, Clough Australia’s Executive Vice-President Australia and Asia Pacific, said back in May when Clough was announced as the successful bidder.

Opportunities for business

The PNG Defence Cooperation Program will also see smaller upgrade works at other PNG Defence Force facilities, including Moem Barracks in Wewak, Igam Barracks in Lae and the PNG Defence Training Depot at Goldie outside Port Moresby, according to Susan Bodell, Assistant Secretary at Australia’s Department of Defence.

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‘There will be a number of opportunities in coming years to engage in defence infrastructure projects,’ she told an Australia-PNG business forum last month.

She said the intent was to maximise the opportunity for local industry involvement in projects, although there were no specific targets for local content. She emphasised that ‘proof of past performance in the Pacific’ would be a key criterion when selecting contractors.

‘We are building to the highest standards in the infrastructure works,’ she said, indicating that it was ‘critical’ that contractors met Australia and New Zealand standards, in addition to PNG regulations. Australian workplace health and safety laws would also apply.

‘We’re looking for companies to be able to demonstrate the ability to exercise a duty of care for employees in remote areas,’ she said.

Bodell encouraged companies looking to engage in defence infrastructure projects to register with the Australian government’s AusTender website. Smaller projects would also be advertised in the local press.

The Australian government is also funding similar defence infrastructure projects in other Pacific countries, including Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.


  1. The project is the way forward for the province to progress. Progress which spreads out to locals and evryone involved. The sponsors of the project should allowe greater participation of locals living on the island to have their say and be part of the project. While defence is vital to the regional security its internal stability will great be further strengthen by stabilizing local involvement. Hope the project manager will sit, listen and act when implementing the project.

    Thank you.

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