PNG's Hela landowners wait for response to LNG equity offer

8:40 pm on 18 April 2017
LNG Project site (run by project partner Oil Search) in Nagoli, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea.

LNG Project site (run by project partner Oil Search) in Nagoli, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Hela landowners may have to wait until after this year's election to learn if Papua New Guinea's government accepts their proposal to buy equity in the LNG gas project.

A collective of Hela landowners from the ExxonMobil-led LNG project area have raised US$230 million to buy 4.27 percent equity in the project.

Last year, landowners complained that government plans for the management of this equity would impede their participation in the project.

According to PNG media, Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch has written to the prime minister, Peter O'Neill, recommending that a landowner offer tabled last month be accepted.

A landowner representative, Raymond Kuai, said the struggle of Hela people to participate more in the project should be a big issue in the upcoming elections.

"We're still waiting. Treasury has accepted and written to the prime minister. The prime minister is sitting on it. So, it'll be very difficult for a PNC (Peter O'Neill's People's National Congress) candidate in Hela to convince the voters as to what has happened to that offer," he said.

Mr Kuai said it seemed likely the matter would be shelved for whichever government emerged after this year's election.

However, almost three years since the first shipment of LNG export, Mr Kuai said landowners have seen none of the promised benefits of the O'Neill government's landmark venture.

The chairman of the PNG Sustainable Development Program, former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta, has said his company is willing to help provide debt finance.

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