West New Britain Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


West New Britain occupies the western half of New Britain Island. It is populated by people from all over Papua New Guinea, many of whom come to work in the plantations and mills. One fourth of the population was born off the island, however, the highest rate for any province. The town of Talasea is a centre for the manufacture of shell money: obsidian, or volcanic glass, that is used in the manufacture of knives, spears and arrows. Shell money was used for trade from about 3000 BC until recent times.

A diver is dwarfed by a school of barracuda. The province is known for its spectacular underwater sights. Credit: Derek Sepiolo

Economic overview

West New Britain is sometimes dubbed the Palm Oil Province. Oil palm was introduced to PNG in 1967 and the first plantings were made in the Hoskins area of the province. The town of Kimbe was established to provide a port and infrastructure facilities for oil palm. There is a large central estate for the processing and mill facilities. Surrounding this are thousands of smallholders, who come from many different areas of PNG. These smallholder blocks range in size from two to six hectares. Harvesting is undertaken manually. The fruit, which is sustainably produced all year round, is considered the most productive vegetable oil per unit area of any vegetable crop in the world. The refined oil is used for cooking, particularly in the fast-food industry, and in cosmetics.

There is extensive logging on the island. Forests cover more than three-quarters of the land, a total area of almost two million hectares. The Government aims to collect levies from the logging so as to invest in reforestation, increase the number of high-value species and provide an incentive for villagers to set aside part of their land for long-term forest management. The provincial government has also been encouraging smallholder development of poultry and pig breeding and some cash crops: coffee, spices, coconut and cocoa. There are two biogas plants producing electricity in the province, and a third is planned.


Unlike neighbouring East New Britain Province, with which it shares a border, the west receives only small numbers of tourists. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Muruk Cave system in the Nakanai Range. Kimbe Bay is attractive for its coral, fishing, snorkelling, diving experiences and volcanic caves. In particular, the Cathedral is a popular night dive; it is a horseshoe-shaped reef with a large cave at one end and a white sandy bottom. There is trekking in the Cape Gloucester area where the active Mount Langila volcano can be heard in the distance. Another feature is Lake Dakataua, which was formed after a giant volcanic eruption in 1884.

The province has rich volcanic soils and many thermal pools, and the upgraded Hoskins Airport is about 45 minutes’ drive from the main town of Kimbe.

Where to stay

  • Walindi Plantation Resort is the perfect getaway for divers, offering land-based diving, as well as excursions on board the MV FeBrina.
  • Liamo Reef Resort and Kimbe Bay Hotel (+675 983 5001) also provide accommodation within the main town of Kimbe.

West New Britain in brief

Province name: West New Britain

Capital: Kimbe

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Population: 264,264

Area: 20,387 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 525 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Hoskins airport regularly. The flight time is 1 hour 5 minutes.

Major industries: Palm oil, Forestry.

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