The ambitious 20-year plan to create Papua New Guinea’s national road network


The 20-year National Road Network Strategy to improve Papua New Guinea’s roads is about to begin. David Wereh, Secretary of the Department of Works & Implementation, says the strategy aims to address both maintenance of existing roads and building new connections.

The Department of Works and Implementation’s David Wereh addresses this year’s Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference. Credit: BAI

Addressing the 2019 Papua New Guinea Investment Conference in August, David Wereh outlined the major challenge of any new road strategy in PNG: historic under-funding.

‘We know the issues that the road sub-sector is facing in PNG,’ he said. ‘We are trying to reduce the massive backlog that we are sitting on at the moment—looking at the plans that government has for the next 20 years to try and reduce the backlog and improve our roads and support service delivery in PNG.’

Wereh described roads as the ‘backbone’ of the transport system in PNG. However, he said that, if the current practice of allocating K310 million a year for road maintenance is continued, then in 10 years’ time over four-fifths of PNG’s national roads will be in poor condition.

‘The 20-year plan will be undertaken in five year steps.’

Clearly, a change in approach was needed, and more money too.

‘The impact on goods and services is a serious consideration. In 2018, the Department of Works put forward a road strategy that was developed with our donors and resource development partners,’ he told delegates.

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Wereh said PNG’s new National Road Network Strategy 2018-2037, launched last month, will be undertaken in five-year steps.

The plan is to expend K21.1 billion to improve the condition of the national road network to a point where half is in a ‘good’ condition and half is in a ‘fair’ condition.

‘The road network is still disconnected,’ said Wereh. ‘We have regional highways that are yet to be connected. Part of the plan is to open up those missing links so that for the first time we can create a national network that connects the entire country from one point to another—including Port Moresby. The capital city is yet to be connected by a road network. It is a massive undertaking.’

The first phase (2018-2022) will be focused on the 2309 km of core national roads, with K4.49 billion allocated.

‘All this expenditure is going to provide opportunities for the private sector.’

‘We want to boost those key economic roads to ensure they are accessible and able to support improvement of business in the country,’ said Wereh.

Phase Two (2023-2027) will focus on the 2502 km of priority national roads; K4.81 billion will be allocated. Phase Three (2028-2037) will be directed at 4,639 km of non-priority national roads. It is expected that K11.82 billion will be expended.

Wereh said the national road network is to be built around five economic corridors:

  1. Momase corridor spanning West Sepik, East Sepik, Madang and Morobe.
  2. The Highlands corridor, including Eastern Highlands, Chimbu, Jiwaka, Western Highlands and Enga.
  3. The Petroleum Resource Area-Southern Region (PRASR) corridor, which covers the provinces of Hela, Southern Highlands, Gulf, Central, Northern and Milne Bay.
  4. The Islands Region corridor, which includes the provinces of East New Britain, West New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville and Manus Island.
  5. The Border corridor, which spans West Sepik and Western provinces.

PNG’s planned road corridors  Source: Department of Works & implementation

Expenditure patterns

Total expenditure in 2020 is expected to be K1.837 billion, of which 89 per cent will go to roads and 11 per cent will go to bridges. Expenditure in 2021 is expected to be K2.165 billion.

All this expenditure is going to provide opportunities for the private sector.

Wereh said there will be consulting opportunities in conducting feasibility studies, undertaking site investigations and designs, conducting construction supervision and developing road user charges systems.

The planned investment in roads will be focused on existing highways and roads. There will also be efforts made to protect old growth forests. Wereh believes that improving PNG’s roads will reduce demand for sea and air transport, which will reduce the country’s carbon emissions.

The aim, he said is to provide an enabling environment for the agriculture, tourism and manufacturing industries. ‘It will improve national cohesion.’

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