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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill  has warned of the danger faced by Pacific island nations in dealing with environmental pressures.

He said this includes both the effects of climate change causing extreme weather that the Government has been confronting, and unsafe practices employed by large companies.
“Another challenge that faces us in the region, that faces Papua New Guinea, is the environment,” PM O’Neill said during his address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra.

“In Papua New Guinea we have just witnessed the worst impacts of climate change.
“Rising sea levels and tidal surges that are taking place in many parts of our country, we have just had a seven-month long devastating drought and frost, as well as extreme storms.
“Already our people in our coastal villages are becoming refugees and are resettling on the mainland.
“We have had drought that has destroyed crops has leaving many of our communities without food.
“But we have been able to manage those issues by ourselves.

“That is probably one reason why we have not had the international attention about the worst drought we have ever experienced in Papua New Guinea.
“We have been able to manage it because of our ability to engage with our communities, and our Government’s commitment to making sure that we feed our people over that period of time.
The Prime Minister further noted the damage caused in other Pacific island nations.
“Only last week we saw in Fiji, the destruction of Cyclone Winston, and not so long ago Cyclone Pam that devastated Vanuatu.

“This is becoming more of a concern in the Pacific, because our communities in the Pacific are the most exposed and most vulnerable to climate change.
“We attended the global climate change talks in Paris in December last year.
“The outcomes were probably as good as we could have expected from that meeting.
“But we should not be limiting ourselves to that agreement.
“We must be able to do more. Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, have an obligation to the rest of the Pacific.

“We must make sure that these communities and their ways of life, is protected. We must make sure that we enable their infrastructure and that their services continue to be rolled out.
“That is our moral obligation, and I know, as I speak here today, that many Pacific islands countries will express similar sentiment, that we have a community in our back yard that is wanting our help.
“We must stand up for them.”
Prime Minister O’Neill went on to draw attention to the harm that can be caused to the natural environment, and the people who live there, when large companies do not exercise sufficient care.
“Finally, I just also want to talk about corporate Australia, and the responsibilities they also have.
“Papua New Guinea is one of the top destinations for investment from Australian business.
“But again, the environment is an issue. Big companies must have big responsibilities.
“We have recently reopened Ok Tedi.
“That was the subject of a major environmental disaster, operated by BHP at that time.
“The compensation arrangements that were put in place to safeguard the communities, are being mismanaged today.

“This is not the sort of corporate responsibility that we expect in an emerging country like Papua New Guinea.
“BHP, and other mining companies that work and live in Papua New Guinea, must share the responsibility for the environmental damage done to our communities.
“Where they lack clean drinking water, where diseases that were not known in our communities are prevailing in many of our communities, we must make sure that we attend to this as well.”
PM O’Neill said there has been a turnaround at the Ok Tedi mine as new leadership has been brought into the company.

“Today, Ok Tedi is changing,” the Prime Minister said.
“The Papua New Guinea Government has taken over the mine because the mine life has ended from the previous operators.
“We are rebuilding the business, we are rebuilding the communities, and we are working with the landowners and the local governments in trying to make sure that we have a partnership that is going to serve all stakeholders.
“I believe strongly that if we work together, we should be able to attend to many of these issues so they do not happen again.
“I know that under the leadership of Managing Director of Ok Tedi, Peter Graham, who is the person who delivered a world class project, the LNG project in Papua New Guinea, we are changing the way we do business.
“We make no apology for taking a firm stance on this issue.
“We have an obligation to our people, their wellbeing is our number one priority.
“We need to ensure that there is a right balance in ensuring that our people and their interests are protected.”
The address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, on March 3, was the second by Prime Minister O’Neill having last addressed the media group in 2013.

Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on 12:21 AM. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article


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