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NEC to consider Comprehensive Highway Policy - Strong Penalties for individuals who block highways

Highlands Highway Picture by David Swanson/IRIN
The Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill  has announced that Cabinet will consider a comprehensive policy to strengthen the national road network, with high attention provided to dealing with damage caused by extreme weather that is made worse by climate change.
PM O’Neill also issued a stern warning to individuals who might seek to profit from road closures and public inconvenience, or might seek to obstruct public officials, saying these actions will be dealt with through prison terms.

“Increasing extreme weather conditions, as well as years and years of neglect by many Governments in the past, as well as a lack of investment, has made our national highways vulnerable to disruption by landslips and flooding,” the Prime Minister said.
“The National Government is approaching this as an emergency case and will provide special intervention directed by Cabinet when it meets on Thursday this week.
“From Cabinet’s decision we intent to announce a comprehensive package to address these challenges and provide a long-term solution.

"Extreme weather is a fact of life today and is being made worse by climate change.
"The weather is beyond our control, but preparing for tropical storms and then responding when extreme weather strikes is something that is within our power.”
National Highways referred to by the Prime Minister include the Highland Highway, Sepik Highway, the Ramu-Madang Highway, Hiratano and Magi Highway, New Britain Highway, Boluminski Highway and the West Coast Highway in New Ireland Province.
The Prime Minister further warned that strict laws will be brought into force preventing people from obstructing access to highways.

“I am concerned about individuals blocking roads and demanding unnecessary compensation, and not allowing Government officials to attend to urgent work.
“This is causing serious public inconvenience, and we cannot afford to have individuals holding the public and the Government to ransom.
“The law clearly states that there is a forty-metre corridor for national highways, and this is public land that should not be obstructed.
“These corridors will now be strictly enforced through the introduction of laws with strong penalties.
“This includes long prison terms for individuals who knowingly abuse public property, and who prevent Government officials form discharging their duties. This is especially important during times of natural disasters.”
The Prime Minister said the necessary changes to enforce the forty-metre public space will be taken to Parliament when it meets in January.
PM O’Neill has further called on businesses to refrain from making payments to land owners in order to remove road blockages.
“Payments to remove blockages only encourage repeat behaviour and copy-cats, and leads to more problems at a later date.
“I appreciate the good intention of businesses, but payments outside the normal checks and balances of Government processes often lead to long-term problems.”
The Prime Minister said maintaining open highways is essential for communities around the nation and is a priority for the Government.
“The highways are more than just roads, but are lifelines for millions of our people.
“They are lifelines for small business, for families trying to get their goods to market, and a lifeline for all people who have jobs that depend on open supply chains.”
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