” Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.
Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.”
Article by Simon Pentanu
In the photo below you can see a green kayak and the indomitable Yamaha fibreglass boat beached on a perfect sandbank – fit for a postcard – at low tide, 15 to 20 minutes from Pokpok Island.
A friend and I rode out to this location one cool morning before sunrise to feel the warmth of the sun when it rose and rose in the east. My friends and I often do this whenever I am home.
At the earliest break of blue dawn looking northwest we could see the outcrop known as ‘negro head’ protruding like a human head donning a cap in the distance. Looking to our right, not in this photo, was the bellowing volcano, Mt Bagana, which never ceases to amaze on a clear day. We could see the contours of hilly and forested Kieta Peninsula nearby jutting out furthest towards William Takaku’s Eberia and the once busy and popular resort island of Arovo.
Bougainville Island has some of the best beaches in the Pacific. Its eastern seaboard boasts a plethora of stunning beaches and sandbanks from the top of Buka in the far north to the deep south.
The coast and waters off Buin are dotted with myriad small, fully forested green islands that seem to openly defy the international imaginary border between Bougainville and the Solomons, brokered by the Germans and the British to settle territorial spoils at WW2’s end.
Bougainville has much to offer visitors and travellers. And tourism has much to offer Bougainville. But it is an industry that needs careful planning, because its basis is the environment that we all share and hold in trust for future generations.
Unplanned mass tourism can quickly turn into a nightmare for locals and the natural environment on which we all depend. In a similar way we need not look further than Panguna for real examples of what can happen.
To encourage sustainable tourism – as opposed to variety that burns out fast – our Government needs to use a little bit of imagination. It needs to put much more effort and seed money to bring land owners into the process at an early stage, and learn from how PNG has learnt from its past after realising the real potential of tourism in the economic sector. Little by little and step by step communities can be assisted with strategies that can showcase their own beautiful part of our islands in a way that will put money in their pockets and make sure the attractions are still there for their children and grandchildren.
The good news is we’re not starting from scratch. In a way what we are doing is reincarnating tourism in our region. I have read a lot about what Bougainville Tourism was doing prior to the crisis and have been privileged to meet some of the individuals involved before the crisis. If Arovo was the icing on their cake, the rest of the cake was trekking the hills and mountains, diving the mapped wrecks, saving war relics as museum pieces for display, surfing, fishing, yachting, and boat and plane trips across to the south Solomons.
The business community on Bougainville has been the backbone of restoring our economy and commerce, virtually from the ground up in many cases. Many businesses have tried very hard while governments have squandered money on investments that should really have been left to private enterprise. Governments everywhere – and Bougainville is no exception – are not very good at making money but very good at spending it!
A boost to tourism may need a reorientation of Government ministries. I say this knowing that disruptions in life and in organisations often lead to something better, even bigger and better. So, maybe splitting up the Ministry of Community Development would see visible and tangible results.
Retain the Ministry of Community Government and let it absorb the community development responsibilities. In its place create a Ministry of Youth, Arts, Culture, Sports and Tourism. The idea to include Tourism here is to train, skill and involve the youth in something they already have, that is land and opportunities to do something with. Rather than give up on young people who cannot find employment we must help them Lto appreciate and recognise that they belong to a place that they can promote with pride. The Ministry of Economic Development / Commerce can write up the training manuals and deliver the training.
Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.
Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.