Bougainville gets serious about attracting investment


The Autonomous Bougainville Government has established an investment bureau to attract national and international businesses to the province.


Autonomous Bougainville Government officials with the team from Tuia International (from left: Sera Price, Mandy Armstrong, Tim Gibson, Danny Rumbali, the Hon. Wilfred Komba, Albert Kinani, the Hon. Nicholas Daku, the Hon. Michael Oni, Mike Taitoko, Emmanuel-Carlos Kaetavara)

Agriculture, tourism, fisheries and mining will be the focus investment sectors, according to Tim Gibson, Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand company, Tuia International, which has spent more than two years in Bougainville advising on new investment laws.

The Bougainville Inward Investment Bureau (BIIB) will aim to ensure that any foreign investment is responsible and meets Bougainville’s cultural, economic, environmental and social needs.

In the 17 years since the end of the Bougainville conflict, the government of Bougainville has been very concerned about ‘how to encourage investment and protect their society and values,’ Gibson tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘They want to participate in the development, not just be spectators.’

‘The issue in the past has been that too many people have come up to take advantage of the situation, and of vulnerable people,’ he says.

Non-mining sectors

The new Bougainville Inward Investment Bureau website

The new Bougainville Inward Investment Bureau website,

When outsiders think of Bougainville, they think mining and the now-defunct giant Panguna copper mine.

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‘The opportunities in Bougainville may include mining but Bougainville has lots of natural resources—agriculture, cocoa, copra, virgin coconut oil—as well as land- and sea-based resources that don’t require extraction from under the ground,’ says Gibson.

He says there are six principles which will guide investment approvals; that projects

  1. align with local values and cultures;
  2. are ethical, moral and fair;
  3. recognise and protect land rights;
  4. are environmentally sustainable;
  5. involve the maximum participation of Bougainvilleans; and
  6. achieve cultural and social outcomes.

‘The criteria are those that a “good person” would bring to the table anyway,’ he says.

‘Bougainville wants investors to come in with a secure and transparent arrangement around them and to operate and get a return on their investment, but to also contribute to building Bougainville. They want to participate in the development, not just be spectators.’

Businesses for locals

As in the rest of PNG, some business areas will be reserved for locals, he says.

‘Bougainville has what the world wants and now the focus is on showing investors what Bougainville can do.’

‘If you look at undeveloped economies like Bougainville, there are natural pathways for people to get involved in developing their potential and they tend to start at the level where they sell what they grow in the garden, at the market or on the roadside or they get involved in local transport, including boat services.

‘So, they are the first steps in developing entrepreneurial skills.’

Outreach programme

Gibson says officials are planning investment targets and the new management team will plan road shows—‘ an outreach programme’—for Australia, NZ and eventually further afield.

Bougainvillean Lauta Atoi checking his cocoa trees.Courtesy: Aloysius Laukai.

Bougainvillean Lauta Atoi checking his cocoa trees. Credit: Aloysius Laukai.

‘Bougainville has what the world wants and now the focus is showing investors what Bougainville can do. So, the Bureau needs to get out there proactively targeting the types of companies Bougainville wants.’


‘Because of the complexities around mining, this has its own investment approach and legislation,’ says Gibson.

‘If companies are interested in mining, they would register with the bureau, and then the project would go to the Mining Minister.

‘Being issued a licence to operate as a “Responsible Investor” is not a licence to mine. The Department of Mining in Bougainville has its own mining laws and processes that will need to be followed.’

Joint venture

The BIIB is a joint venture with the Investment Promotion Authority of Papua New Guinea.

‘The Bureau is very important in ensuring that Bougainville develops a strong economy, with the support of investors who will bring skills as well as investment capital to the region,’ Ivan Pomalau, CEO of the IPA, said in a statement.

Bougainville: recent economic development highlights

  • Bougainville dancers welcome adventure tourists from he National Geographic Orion.January 2014  An official reconciliation ceremony takes place in Port Moresby between PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the President of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, Dr John Momis. O’Neill promises to reopen Aropi Airport by the end of 2014 and announces K200 million of  Restoration Development Grants will be paid immediately.
  • February 2014  Bougainville’s Prestine 101 Copra Mill is preparing to export its first shipment of crude oil to Asia and Europe.
  • March 2014  Peter O’Neill has pledges K10 million towards the Cocoa Clonal Project in North Bougainville over the next five years.
  • April 2014  Agro Technical School opens for 400 students, specialising in cocoa, coconut, poultry, piggery, rice, taro farming.
  • April 2014  National Geographic Expeditions’ ship, National Geographic Orion, makes its first visit to Buka in Bougainville, carrying 86 American tourists and 13 crew.

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