Advice from a building expert: How to cut costs when building a home in Papua New Guinea

kit home

So like many others I’ve embarked on another  a journey of self-learning.  This time it’s  building and architecture.

It can be  mind boggling if you don’t know where to look and who to talk to.  For some,  the simplest option is to have an architect design your house and have a builder construct it.  Or get a kit home. In PNG, this is expensive but marketed as ‘cheap.’

Being me, I wanted to understand the whole thing.

So it began with lots of consultations and finally, I was introduced to a brilliant builder (I can’t mention his name because I don’t have his permission to do so yet.)

He walked me through the intricacies of building and construction which I found highly valuable to me.  Some of the tips he shared are obvious but to other people. But for people  like me who work with cameras and television, it was a GREAT help.

Below are the tips I am sharing based on his advice:

  1. Kit homes are overpriced  – While kit homes may seem the most convenient option for many Papua New Guineans,  he says,  companies charge at least a third to double on the the material costs to make a profit.   The temptation to buy a kit home is  always there. But suppliers won’t let you buy in  packed portions so cost  is manageable you.  They prefer a lump sum payment which, in many cases, in unaffordable.
  2. Use the designs but buy your own materials IN STAGES – The way to reduce  cost,  is to  get good advice from someone who can give you a material listing in stages based on a design.    Start with footings (posts, cement bags, gravel). Then, move on to the bearers and joists (new words I learned along the way :D). Followed by the walls then roof. You will find that metal  house stumps (posts)  and cement bags  are not as expensive as many think. With innovative transport options ie. using family and friends, a lot can be achieved.
  3. Don’t let people over charge you on designs – You can easily find and buy designs online. They are arguably cheaper than getting an architect design. These days, designs are available online.  This makes owner builder options very attractive.
  4. Advice is usually free – Most of the advice given is usually free if it’s from a friend or family.
  5. This advice is primarily for people building on your own land separate from an urban municipal setting. 

Every year, during Mother’s Day, I shed a tear | By Pearson Vetuna


My mother,  from Rabuana Village,  married a Methodist pastor from Ratavul just before the Japanese invaded Rabaul in January/February 1942.

My father’s first posting after graduating,  as a pastor,  was to Talvat village where the Japanese arrested him in late 1943 early 1944. He  become a Japanese POW after someone reported him of having a Morse code booklet in his possession.

They were  held in appalling conditions in a cave at Tunnel Hill.

While he was in prison, my mother gave birth to me which meant mum had to cope with a first child and running for cover when war planes came roaring in.

I can only imagine what my mother, young and newly married and giving birth to her first born during the bombing of Rabaul, granted liberation was around the corner but she wasn’t to know that yet, was experiencing.

My father passed on in 2009 while mother left us in 2002.

So on Mother’s Day every year, I shed a tear for my mum. Both she and father are gone but they will live on in my heart, especially mother, for mums the world over, are incredibly tenacious yet loving and caring no matter the situation.

So thank you mum. Happy Mothers Day.”

Huonville resumes classes but questions over Government promised TFF funding remain

When the PNG Fire Service and the Morobe Building Board, condemned six buildings at Huonville Primary School, it came as no surprise for the school administration.

For the last five years, the School struggled with funding.

The Tuition Fee Free Education (TFF) Policy compounded the problem when parents were told that the National Government would pay, in full, tuition and maintenance costs for schools in the country.

Under the TFF policy, the infrastructure funds are paid to Districts which then distribute the funds to schools. District officials told parents at a school meeting, those funds have not been received since 2013.

Huonville’s Principal, Mr. Willie Vilakiva, said the school’s records show that there was no money for maintenance paid to the school accounts since 2013.

So why weren’t the funds paid? No satisfactory answers have been forthcoming.

Mr. Vilakiva is a veteran teacher who taught numerous generations students in Morobe over the years (me and my siblings included). He has seen the good days of education and now, with TFF, he has virtually no funds to rebuild a school that is literally crumbling.

Five weeks ago, parents and teachers raised K20,000 and began building 14 temporary classrooms. On Sunday (20/05/18), gravel was put onto the floors and on Monday, the kids carried their desks into the classrooms to begin school.

These are the realities that we have to contend with.

The TFF isn’t working as it should, there is a shortage of funds and the contractors tasked with the delivery of school materials aren’t getting the job done efficiently.

You can ask Huonville and other schools, and they will tell you the same story.

On the positive side, the parents and teachers showed that they could do the seemingly difficult with very limited funding. In five weeks, all the classrooms were completed.

Parents who worked for Barlow Industries sought and got a company donation of iron sheeting and other materials for the construction.

Later after much publicity, the Morobe Provincial Government, provided emergency funding of K100,000.

Huonville still needs to replace the condemned classrooms and they need more than K4 million to do that.

Landowners threaten to close 5 fish processing plants over unmet project benefits

Sequence 2
Thomas Ahi – CEO, BUP

Landowning clans in Lae are threatening to close down  five fish processing plants  if the government doesn’t  review the existing agreements that govern them.

The clans,  which include the Ahi and the Busulum,  say they’ve been cheated of development benefits.
Since the agreements were signed four years ago, they have received  K5000 per year for the five portions of land they own.
The threat comes after three years of  complicated wrangling with the government and the companies over landowner benefits.
If the landowners have it their way,  Majestic Seafoods,  Frabelle and  three other fish processing  factories will be  forced to shut down next  Tuesday.
Landowner company, BUP development, are calling of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to review the existing agreements  so that  they receive  more in terms of landowner benefits.   
After four years, it has now become clear, landowners got  a bad  deal.  
The landowners  are paid  a total of K5000  annually for the five land portions they leased to the companies.  The deal was negotiated by the provincial administration  at the start o the projects.
Apart from a 2 million kina premium payment   made several years ago, the landowners receive little else.  They are also not party to agreements between the state and the fish processing companies.
They also don’t know what the terms of the state agreement are.
The landowner company since issued a 7 day  notice to the government to  come  Lae for negotiations.
They are demanding K20 million in compensation as well as  a review of the memorandum of Agreement they signed with the companies. 

India at a glance | By Theckla Gunga

Theckla Gunga, cap, bilum and all at a historical site in India

I never imagined that I’d visit India!

Of course, if I had a choice, it would have been Japan, Korea or Vietnam.

But the last five days in India have been most fascinating and interesting.

The first thing I noticed was the apparent was how pedestrians would maneuver their way through heavy traffic to reach the other side.

India’s Capital City, Delhi is as old as the rich Indian culture.

Many of its buildings were built using various traditional styles of architecture. Before the British had colonized India, the land was ruled by hundreds of kings and emperors who built great towers and lived in magnificent palaces.

Remains of most of these architectures still stand tall all over India, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world.

I had the opportunity to visit one of its glorious towers known as Qatar Minar.

This unique tower was built by three different rulers over 30 years. It is 73 metres tall and was built in the 12th century by founder of the the Mamluk Dynasty. In its glory days, this tower acted as a watch tower for the dynasty and assisted rulers to win ancient wars.

About 45 minutes to the south of the Delhi, stands the Emperor Humanyu’s tomb. It was constructed in the 1500s his wife, Empress Bega Begum.

The tomb is the first building in India which was constructed using Red Sand Stones.

Remains of Emperor Humanyu, Empress Bega and their great grandson were all buried here.

The architecture holds a significant place in Indian history.

Much of this ancient history is still being told through stories.

Today there are over 24 million people living in Delhi alone, making it one of the most populated capital cities in the world.

From this 24 million, a larger percentage is made up of very poor people who live in make shift houses on the side of Delhi’s busy roads. Only a relatively small portion of this 24 million live very luxurious lives.

New member of the NCD Dog Unit takes down carjacking suspect

(Story borrowed from the Post Courier)

A notorious carjacker in Port Moresby is now behind bars thanks to a newly graduated law enforcer, K9 Kaiser and his partner and handler Constable Brendon Kuamugl of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary dog directorate.

The duo were with other squad members on a routine on-the-job training when they were alerted that there was a car jacking at Waikele, Gerehu stage 6.

The K9 unit responded to the call and were on their way to the scene when the stolen motor vehicle, a red Ford Ranger, sped passed them heading towards the Gerehu swamp.

They gave chase but could not match the Ford Ranger. The suspects numbering five drove in to the swamp area and abandoned the vehicle, escaping on foot into the thick undergrowth.

The K9 unit arrived at the abandoned vehicle and released K9 Kaiser, who was asked to sniff out the escape route that the suspect had taken. It started tracking the suspects with its partner Constable Brendon into the bushes and drains that lead to the swamp..

Constable Brendon said K9 Kaiser was let loose and followed the suspects scent from a distance.

“I followed K9 Kaiser who had picked a scent and was tracking it confidently through the grass on to a bush track and into the bushes again when I head a yell from the bushes, oi holim dog ya plis (hey hold the dog please). K9 kaiser had located the suspect and had attacked the suspect by bitting his left arm and pulling him back towards me.

“Although K9 Kaiser is small in size, the suspect could not do much because Kaiser was all over him and the suspect had to come to me for protection,” said Constable Brendon. “I ordered Kaiser to release him and shouted at the suspect to lie on the ground.”

K9 Kaiser is a general purpose dog, which means she sniffs drugs, tracks suspects and does patrol work. K9 Kaiser graduated at the Bomana Dog Training School last year under the Australian Federal Police assistance program.

EHP honey and spice update: Business interest picking up!

The responses from Tella Loie (honey prodcuer) and Sakarias Ikio (spice farmer) have been more than encouraging! Simply amazing stuff!

Since our visit last month, they have reported a marked increase in the number of visits, the interest and the amount of connections they have developed.

It all came from a few TV stories, blog articles, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

From Tella Loie:

“1. Many new interested persons enquiring on bees… with positive comments.
2. Few have asked for flew in from Pom Thur and back Sat, bought honey & jars to repack and do sales. One from Lae (Fiji) origin bought 10 kilos last Fri.
3. Equipment sales, those only in Goroka and beekeepers.

Otherwise I am positive business is definitely picking up. Revenue increase, yes, steady but I am 101% sure will increase. Many thanks!”

Email from Sakarias Ikio:
Hi Scott,

I’m getting a lot of exposure after your visit, and video news report on March, and later around late April. We have had other visits by the World Bank, the Agriculture & Food Services International Myanmar, the National Newspaper POM, the a Market Link
agency from Lae. And there are also buyers expressing interest for our spices as well.
So we want to thank you so much for that.