The intractable problem of landowner identification in the PNG LNG project: a historical perspective

Crawford School of Public Policy | Development Policy Centre

Event details


Date & time

Thursday 08 September 2016


Acton Theatre Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Associate Professor Colin Filer, Resources, Environment and Development Group, Crawford School, ANU.


Husnia Hushang
6125 7922

In the second week of August this year, Papua New Guinea’s national newspapers reported that the customary landowners of the Hides gas field, the primary source of raw material for PNG’s Liquified Natural Gas project, were protesting and threatening to ‘turn off the taps’. This was because they had still not not received significant amounts of the money that was owing to them under a series of development agreements negotiated in 2009, despite the fact that the project has already been operational for two years. Government spokesmen sought to assure the landowner representatives that the money was safely accumulating in a government trust account pending the results of what was described as an ‘outstanding [meaning unfinished] landowner identification process’. While some observers would treat this as a simple case of policy failure on the part of the national government, Dr Filer argues that it is the outcome of a protracted contest between three distinct visions of what the Oil and Gas Act 1998 calls ‘social mapping and landowner identification’. These three visions or ideologies, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Individualism, constitute the three corners of a policy domain and a policy contest that has now lasted for more than 25 years.

Colin Filer is an Associate Professor in the Resources, Environment and Development Group, and an Associate of the Development Policy Centre, in Crawford School of Public Policy. Before joining The Australian National University in 2000, he lived and worked in PNG for a period of 18 years, and during that period, he played an active role in drafting the ‘social mapping and landowner identification’ provisions of PNG’s Oil and Gas Act. He has also played many other roles as an expert on ‘landowner issues’ in PNG’s mining and petroleum sectors.

This event is co-hosted by Resources, Environment and Development Group of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

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