Hela Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Hela is a smaller province of Papua New Guinea, comprising three districts previously part of Southern Highlands Province. It is home to the Huli Wigmen, who are internationally recognised for their distinctive face paint and elaborate wigs made from human hair.

The Princess Stephanie is a rare variety of the bird of paradise. Credit: Jan Hasselberg

Economic overview

Hela is the host province for some of PNG’s most important natural resources projects. The biggest project is the US$19 billion (K62 billion) PNG LNG Project, which covers the area of Hides, Angore, Kutubu, Moro, Moran and Mananda Oil Fields. Production operations include gas production and processing facilities, onshore and offshore pipelines and liquefaction facilities.

PNG LNG commenced in 2014, shipping liquefied natural gas to customers in Asia. The facility is led by ExxonMobil, with Oil Search, Santos, AGL, Nippon Oil and the Mineral Resources Development Company as partners. In 2017, the project produced 8.3 million tonnes of LNG, 20 per cent above estimates.

The second-biggest project in Hela is the Mt Kare Gold Project operated by Indochine Mining. Gold exploration is underway in the Mt Tundaka area.

There are some significant infrastructure programs, including more than K1 billion to fund a power transmission lines expansion project from Mt Hagen in Western Highlands Province to Tari. Tari Airport is to have a K55 million facelift, which will include new fencing, a terminal building and runway sealing. Five million kina has been allocated to build a bridge in Enga to link Hela and Western Highlands.

There are also proposals for a Hela Highway that would run from Margarima in Hela to Mt Hagen in the Western Highlands. Under the Kokopo agreement, which promises about K5.7 billion in royalties to landowners over the project’s lifetime, there is to be extensive funding for roads, power supply, hospitals, schools, vocational training, and local business developments. However, the allocations are proving difficult to implement, in part because identifying landowners is more complex in the province than in other parts of the country.

Hela Province is the home province of PNG’s Prime Minister, James Marape.

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The Tari town market has garden produce, poultry, livestock and bilums for sale. Other opportunities are trekking into the Tari Gap, rafting in the Tangari River, bushwalking to see birds, including the famed birds of paradise, visiting Huli villages and attending the Huli wig school to hear about Huli etiquette.

Where to stay

Naturalist David Attenborough has stayed at Ambua Lodge – an indication that the lodge’s bird-watching tours must be good. The lodge is operated by Trans Niugini Tours (pngtours.com), which also has a range of cultural excursions. Ambua is about an hour from Tari, along the Highlands Highway. Hela Bushman Lodge (+675 7077 4825, facebook.com/bushmanlodge) is a five-minute drive from Tari and also arranges tours.

Hela Province in brief

Name: Hela Province

Capital: Tari

Population: 249,449

Area: 10,498 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 617 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Tari regularly. The flight time is 1 hour 30 minutes

Sectors: Oil, gas, infrastructure.

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