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04 January 2019

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I can remember when the only way to get to Gembogl from Kundiawa was to walk. In 1960 I was transferred from the school at Henganofi to Gon School in Kundiawa.

As I arrived well before school started I was asked to accompany a group of police bois as they escorted local men carrying a very large kerosene refrigerator to the Patrol Station at Gembogl. Kiap Peter Hardy was eagerly awaiting his new frig.

Orm Mathieson, the District Officer at Kundiawa, assembled about 20 local men at the district office and they strapped the frig, still inside its large wooden crate, to two large saplings and hoisted it onto their shoulders.

We set off at quite a pace and every few miles one of the men would call loudly ahead to the next village and another 20 men would assemble and take over the frig. It was my responsibility to pay off the carriers with sticks of tobacco, sheets of newspaper, a handful of salt or threepence which ever they requested.

When we had nearly reached Sumburu, a Lutheran Mission, close to Gembogl we discovered a bridge had been washed out the night before in a big storm. I instructed the police to hold the frig at the river whilst I went into the mission to get some building materials to help make the bridge safer.

I was persuaded to have a coffee before going back and whilst relaxing we heard singing and the men came around the corner so pleased they had somehow walked across the river on one large log.

I swore the police to secrecy as I didn't want Orm to know we might have lost the lot in the river. We got to Gembogl OK and Peter was very happy he could now keep his beer cold.

During the next 18 months the first 'road' to Gembogl was completed.

Gangs of village men were given a stretch of road to build with digging sticks and shovels (no machinery). The stretch of road was always quite a distance from their village and they had to finish the stretch before they could go home. This sped up the work.

Bill Seale , the District Commissioner from Goroka, came up to open the road and he was in the first LandRover in the convoy which travelled up the valley after the opening.
Kiap Jim Kent was driving the LandRover and, as they traversed a narrow spot adjacent to a steep drop into the Chimbu River, Bill told Jim to move across to the right as he was so close to the edge.

Jim's reply was that he was scraping the cliff and couldn't go across any further. They got there and back but the road was often cut off with landslides etc.

I walked up and down a few times. One memorable time was to climb Mount Wilhelm with a group of senior school boys and a couple of New Guinean teachers.

Within a short time the Kundiawa/Gembogl road is almost complete, thanks to Asia Development Bank and the Chinese company that build that road.

The O'Neill government also did well in supporting the rural population with road links.

Now how about the Karamui road, which has so far taken two to three decades to complete. Launch after launch with false openings to get media attention and false service delivery.

Our local contractors are not doing their work properly and consuming most of the funds meant for the Karamui road which is still 70% incomplete.

The MP for Karamui is not doing much by allegedly diverting road funds to his own company which is against the Financial Management Act.

It would be best is engage a foreign company to build the Karamui road, maybe this Chinese company can do well.

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