APEC 2018: Australia joins global alliance to 'power up PNG'

Australia will spend $25 million this year as part of a major international effort to get electricity to some of the most remote parts of Papua New Guinea.

Australia will put $25 million this year into a huge joint effort to electrify Papua New Guinea, in one of the largest projects in the Pacific nation's history.

Just 13 per cent of PNG's population has access to reliable electricity, but Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand will all chip in to fund a series of power and communications projects.

The Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership will aim to get 70 per cent of the country connected by 2030.

"I know from direct experience that living without electricity is incredibly difficult," PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said at the signing ceremony on Sunday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and US Vice President Mike Pence shake hands.
Source: AAP

The mountainous PNG is notoriously difficult for infrastructure projects, with the vast majority of the population living in remote or rural areas.

The capital Port Moresby is also cut off from the rest of the country, and can only be reached by sea or air.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had sat in remote villages and had some understanding of how hard it was to live without power.

From left, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, PNG PM Peter O'Neill, NZ PM Jacinda Ardern and US VP Mike Pence.
Source: AAP

"It's time to power up PNG right across the country," he said.

Papua New Guinea will choose its own power sources, but it currently uses 70 per cent hydro.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the project would unlock opportunities for women, while US Vice President Mike Pence said quality of life in PNG would improve.

The project will require large-scale public and private investment in new generation, transmission lines and distribution.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the project would unlock opportunities for women, while US Vice President Mike Pence said quality of life would improve.
Source: AAP

The deal is the first to be funded under the tri-lateral infrastructure deal announced last week between the US, Japan and Australia.

But it will also be open to other nations that support "a free, open, prosperous and rules-based region."

The project comes as China increases its infrastructure push into PNG, including hospitals and a major road in Port Moresby.

But locals have criticised China for building unnecessary projects that don't help the community - the road China ripped up and replaced was already one of the best in PNG.

The Chinese projects have also been funded with "aid money", but they are built by Chinese workers, using Chinese materials, and the money goes back to Chinese companies.

Australia will commit $25 million in the first year, and will ensure fibre optic cable is rolled out as part of the grid.

Published 18 November 2018 at 1:42pm, updated 18 November 2018 at 4:26pm