From the Kundiawa News Special Goroka Show issue of 29 August 1964
THE township of Kundiawa is situated on a hill overlooking the junction of the Chimbu and Wahgi rivers in the heart of the Chimbu Division of the Eastern Highlands.
A ramshackle grass-thatched building, soon to be replaced by ba modern permanent structure, serves as the District Office and shares the hilltop with the the District Officer’s residence and the court house.
This was the site commonly used by well-known government officer and explorer J L Taylor during his early patrols in the Chimbu, and from it may be seen the Lutheran Mission station still occupied by the Rev Bergmann, a pioneer missionary who settled there three decades ago when the people were only beginning to discover that a whole world lay beyond their mountains.
To the east, across a small creek, is the only really flat land to be seen anywhere near the township – some 30 acres which was cut and filled to its desirable state by the hand labour of thousands of Chimbus.
This is the Kundiawa airstrip – most maps show it simply as ‘Chimbu’ – and an adjoining recreation area. Less than 4,000 feet long, with a gully on one side, a valley on the other and a steep fall at the approach end, it looks more like the deck olf an aircraft carrier than a conventional landing ground.
Winds howling up and down the valley can make landings tricky but the strip will take aircraft up to Piaggio size and it allows quick movement of cargo and personnel. Heavier cargo is hauled over the steep mountain road to Goroka, more than 60 road miles to the east.
The Chimbu Division, which most people expect to become an administrative district very soon, is administered by a District officer who works through four Assistant District Officers, each of whom is responsible for one of the four sub-districts. The largest of these is the Chimbu Sub-District, with a population of 65,000 living around the Kundiawa area. For administrative convenience, a patrol post, run by a Patrol Officer working under the ADO Chimbu, has been established to handle 20,000 people living in the upper Chimbu.
The remaining four census divisions – Waiye, Yonggamugl, Sina Sina and Dom – are administered directly by officers stationed at Kundiawa. Twenty thousand people of Waiye and Yonggamugl have local government councils which attend to many administrative needs but these still require assistance and guidance from DNA [Department of Native Affairs] officers, and one patrol officer of the Chimbu Sub=District staff is employed full-time as a council supervising officer.
Other officers do routine patrolling to bring administrative services – census, court hearings, assistance and direction on technical, personal and economic matters – to the people. Meanwhile a continual stream of people visit the Sub-District section of the District Office building and the station court house to seek redress for wrongs, assistance with their problems, simply to talk about things or watch court hearings.
A road network has been built throughout the Sub-District to connect with the main highlands highway between Goroka and Hagen, and work is proceeding to increase and improve this. Most road-building is still done by hand – pick shovels and even sharpened sticks can work wonders when wielded enthusiastically by thousands of willing hands. But the Public Works Department is increasing its resources in the area and giving more skilled assistance on roadwork.
The two councils of Waiye and Yonggamugl have recently tendered for a contract with the Administration to maintain sections of the main road using their own equipment – tractors and tipping trailers – which they plan to buy as soon as the contract agreements are finalised. But road will mainly depend on a community self-help system for maintenance everywhere off the main highway.
Councils have been active in building medical aid posts, which are staffed by PHD employees, and extra classrooms for schools established by the Education Department. Although they are too-recently established to have fully satisfied the needs of the people, a good start has been made.
Neil Desailly was the Assistant District Officer, Sub-District, at Kundiawa. He was formerly at Tari in the Southern Highlands