Promoting Papua New Guineans is good for business, says Cardno’s Cooper


Putting Papua New Guineans into key roles will be a priority for Andrew Cooper, recently appointed to head the PNG operations of international consultancy group, Cardno.

Andrew Cooper, Cardno, PNG

Cardno’s Andrew Cooper

Andrew Cooper is not new to PNG. Until 2012, he was General Manager and Country Director for UMW Niugini Limited, an industrial enterprise with interests in engineering, oil and gas, manufacturing and heavy equipment.

During his time there, the company’s revenue grew tenfold and staff numbers rose from 170 to more than 400.

Cooper says a key focus during his time at UMW was moving away from the employment of costly expatriates and promoting Papua New Guineans into important positions.

‘My whole focus is to do what we can to build this nation, to help nationalise key roles, to help PNG-based businesses stand on their own two feet,’ he says.

Commercial and social benefits

‘You know the commercial benefit to the UMW was significant. But, more importantly, we had PNG nationals who were in management positions, making crucial decisions for that business. There’s no reason why we can’t do that again here at Cardno,’ Cooper says.

Cardno’s business in PNG is extremely diverse, ranging from running critical components of international aid programs to providing technical expertise and project management skills for infrastructure projects.

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‘It’s a wide brief,’ Cooper observes. ‘On the social side, that includes the Law and Justice Programme for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and community development programmes, to physical infrastructure, such as the management of water systems, electrical power stations and designs for ports and road systems.

‘For instance, we’re very heavily involved currently in helping to reconfigure the National Capital District’s roads system.’

Cross-selling expertise

Cooper says he wants to ‘cross-sell’ the company’s expertise.

‘For example, if we’re looking at the development of a port, we have environmental people who can come in and put in place simulation models and so we can understand what the impacts are on the environment.

‘We have civil engineers that can work on the design.

‘We have people on the social infrastructure side where we can understand and assist with the management of local landowners and addressing social needs that may be arise out of a major project.”

He cites a violence against women project Cardo is running for Barrick Gold as an example.

‘My focus is very much about bringing people together, bringing our business units together so that we can really help to build capacity in this country.’

Aid projects need private skills

A significant portion of Cardno’s business in PNG has been based on managing Australian aid-funded projects on behalf of DFAT.

Despite the Australian aid program’s reintegration into DFAT, Cooper predicts a continued role for the private sector in delivering aid.

‘The message from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is loud and clear—”we will continue to provide aid in the region, and we will be holding people to account”.

‘We will see more likely an increase in private sector involvement—contractor involvement—because you know we’re the ones that provide the management. We’re the ones that are out there on the ground, and aid donors need that partnership to be close, and make sure the taxpayers’ money is spent effectively.”


  1. Colin Gilson says

    About 10 years ago our company was 35% expats, today there is one. It’s no coincidence that last year our company made its single biggest annual profit, all of our senior roles bar one is filled by PNG nationals. Last week we were proud to announce that one of our staff who started here as a junior sales officer 9 years ago has just been asked to run one of our operations in another country!
    Can’t agree more with this article.

  2. Fred Kowas says

    We have seen over theyears that exercutives and Senior expat Managers come to PNG with a very narror perspective partly influenced by the Australia media that Papua New Guineas are not capable and can not be placed in Senior Roles. The fact is there are lots of capable Papua New Guineas many with International qualifications and experiences and if given the opportunity, they will rise to the occassion as shown with few that have dared to do including UMW Andrew Cooper managed…. Good on you Andrew !

  3. Anja Blyton says

    It’s high time CEOs of companies such as Cardno promoted the culture of inclusivity and recognised that there is plenty of high quality HR in PNG. On ya Andrew Cooper!

  4. Chris Taylor says

    What Andrew Cooper is doing is very inclusive and will benefit both Cardno and the local communities they work with. I like his forward thinking and he is “a breath of fresh air” !!

  5. Laevai Neuendorf says

    Yes indeed, Andrew’s article is a breath of fresh air, and important in this development and social climate. The key to success in engaging PNG workers in all facets of business growth is to work inclusively, not exclusively and lay the foundation for a stronger, more competent, motivated and loyal local workforce. Good on you Andrew for taking a positive step toward a more inclusive , contemporary workforce with PNG workers in the forefront.

    Take a leaf out of the Japanese in the Toyota Business Model, a culture very different to the western world’s business model, yet similar to the PNG social and cultural fabric of work, leadership, loyalty and support.

  6. Excellent article and Andrew is spot on. Giving PNG workers the opportunities to grow benefits them, their families, the businesses and the economy.

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