Landslide debris threatens Mt Wilhelm businesses

The slow response in clearing off debris from the April 10th landslide is costing revenue for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

At the base of the picturesque and remote Mt Wilhelm is PNG’s pioneer trout breeding station and a lodge, owned by local entrepreneur, Betty Higgins.

She sells trout to hotels across the country while trekkers are offered a warm bed in her lodge.  

However, her business is being threatened with the road access yet to be cleared.

“I am breeding fish here, this is the only breeding station for Papua New Guinea,” she said. “And my farmers around the highlands – Goroka, Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands – they need to come and pick up their fingerlings.

“Please I’m appealing to the national fisheries and the national government – they must address this.”

Furthermore, seeing the growing tourism potential, Higgins started building another lodge when the state of emergency was declared. And now with no road access, she is having trouble transporting materials to complete her lodge.

“The two builders are very, very frustrated because they’re stuck here. They want to finish this then go elsewhere and look for another job. But they’re stuck, I’m stuck.”

Apart from businesses, local farmers have also been hard hit. John Banda, one of three leading potato growers and potato seed suppliers within Simbu and the Highlands Region, has his farm near Betty’s Lodge.

For the last two months, he has had to pay K10 per bag for carriers to shoulder his supplies to the Kegesuglo Airstrip. At the moment, 300 bags of potatoes are ready for harvesting. This means, he has to fork out K3,000 for transportation.

“Provinsel gavman na ol distrik i mas tingim mipla,” he stated. “Ol promis lo kam saplaim disel but mipla weit go na klostu tu mans nau. Ol Fresh Produce (Agency) mi wok lo ringim ol na distrik tu mi ringim ol tasol ol no rispond. Wai?”

(Betty Higgins is appealing for their road access to be cleared; Picture by Vincent Kumura)

Carmella Gware