Stephen Sykes reports on the capacity building
synergy arising from Orange
and Mount Hagen cities’ long-standing
Sister City relationship.
Orange City Council in Central New South Wales and Mount Hagen Urban Local Level Government (MHULLG) in the Western Highlands Province (WHP) of Papua New Guinea have a strong history of working in partnership to build capacity. This is based on a 20-year Sister City
relationship which recognises that building better communities requires more than physical infrastructure improvements.
The capacity building program is funded by AusAID, supported by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and has been
focused on assisting more than 60,000 people who live in and around the township of Mt Hagen. Orange City has worked on numerous issues including waste management, sanitation, traffic and pedestrian plans and governance. One major project involved providing support
for a $4 million rural market and nearby traffic facilities, an initiative that has reduced pedestrian fatalities and injuries. There are also
regular exchanges between Mt Hagen and Orange.
Recently there has been a renewed focus on capacity building both for the Mt Hagen government and community and the skills of Orange City staff. In 2009, an Orange City Council delegation of senior staff and a councillor travelled to Mt Hagen, to re-scope both the Sister Cities and the AusAID capacity building programs. The outcomes of the trip, including identification of future steps required, are outlined below. Urban planning project
For the past five years, OCC has been collaborating with MHULLG and its community to develop a new Urban Plan. The first of its type in PNG, the Plan sets the strategic direction for Mt Hagen and opens up significant opportunities to attract international aid funding and commercial investment, which will address many infrastructure and service issues in the region. It provides a framework both for developing control plans and for civic infrastructure planning and development.
The Urban Plan was launched by the then Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Michael Somare, in October 2010. The launch highlighted a number of activities set out in the plan and the PNG Government has allocated more than K125 million (A$50 million) over five years, with K20 million (A$8 million) allocated in the first year. This sum may be augmented by AusAID, European Union and World Bank funding.
The primary targets for action are facilitated by the Plan, but it is now about delivery of infrastructure through the partnership between the local, provincial and national governments. Sydney based firm Crone Partners has been working closely with the Governor of the Highlands, MHULLG, the Mt Hagen Mayor and his Assistant General Manager, Wak Kewa, and OCC to construct a business model that ensures project delivery.
OCC has participated in developing the probity and governance aspects of the business model; key elements of the Plan involving
further collaboration with Mt Hagen include:
■ urban development planning
■ waste management
■ water and sewerage supply
■ transport facilities, particularly relating to public transport
■ city beautification
■ sporting and recreational facilities
■ capacity building for women’s groups.
As the work with Mt Hagen is now moving from a planning to an operational phase, with a focus on the delivery of specific projects, a review of OCC staff involvement has been undertaken. Council’s Directors will undertake the overall coordination of the delivery of these projects and liaison with the CLGF, supported by other staff at OCC. Delivery of specific projects will be undertaken by community volunteers with identifiable skills who are available to travel to PNG on a more regular basis. There is continued opportunity for individual OCC staff members to travel to PNG to provide assistance relevant to their roles at Council, allowing them to gain valuable experience in different and challenging work environments. This can broaden overall skills and provide a different perspective for their local government careers.
Administration for the project is structured in a way that will enable Mt Hagen and Orange’s long-standing Sister City relationship to continue, while ensuring key projects identified in the Mt Hagen City Plan are effectively delivered.
Sister City update
Orange Councillor Chris Gryllis held discussions with a number of groups during 2009 to further the ongoing Sister City relationship between Orange and Mt Hagen. As indicated at the start of this article, the relationship is founded on the shared understanding that to build better communities, we need to do more than simply provide physical infrastructure.
As the divide between rich and poor in world regions and within developed countries widens, the need to build skills grows. Without capacity building, in a difficult world economy Mt Hagen might be tempted to look to using non-renewable resources instead of working to build a sustainable economic future. The skills required to achieve the latter range from building inclusive planning processes to creating environments for learning and problem solving that are self-sustaining and lead to empowerment. The effectiveness of the skills transfer approach is illustrated in the example below.
Women’s capacity building project
This ongoing program was designed to provide new skills to the women of Mt Hagen so they can gain greater independence. It was coordinated and facilitated by Cheis Stanger, an OCC employee who once owned a hotel in Mt Hagen, who advised on a simple, workable and achievable structure which would not only empower the participants, but also allow them to transfer their skills to other women in their particular clan, school, church or ward groups. A practical session involving food hygiene, preparation and costing of jams and preserves was undertaken over two days. The women learned how to identify and source the best fresh produce, prepare various fruits for conserve making and took part in the physical
preparation and bottling process. Time was spent on costing, storing and sales opportunities. This project will continue, with OCC
representatives mentoring and advising.
Positive results have already been achieved. The women have identified other skills that can be shared, such as craft with plastic bags; a workshop for this has been scheduled this month in Mt Hagen. Another considerable achievement is having women from diverse social backgrounds working as a cohesive group. Each of the women in the initial group has made an undertaking to transfer her skills to a further 10 women and so on, to exponentially increase the transfer of these skills. The project has been noted as being very successful and it is hoped that the skills and earning capacity gained by the women will assist them in generating income to support their families, in particular their children’s education.
A two-way street
The 2009 OCC delegation was very touched by the generosity of the residents of Mt Hagen. The Mt Hagen Primary School raised funds for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal – an amazing gesture and result from people who have so little. This money was presented to the delegation to pass on to the fire victims. Inmates and warders from Baisu prison also raised funds; they walked the streets of Mt Hagen with a loudhailer and wheelbarrow and successfully raised over K500 which was sent via the Red Cross.
Future working prospects
Economic development has emerged as an opportunity that can benefit both Mt Hagen and Orange Cities. In particular, WHP is experiencing significant resource activity with gold, minerals and natural gas discovery. With its strong focus on mining, civil infrastructure and civil works, Orange has a number of companies that could advise on infrastructure as the resource work within WHP unfolds.
To capture these mutual opportunities and facilitate future business collaboration, Orange Council and the WHP Government signed an
Economic Development Agreement in August 2010. The Agreement includes proposals to:
■ support the development of partnerships with businesses
in Orange, with a special focus on the mining industry,
environmental protection and governance support industries
■ facilitate networking between private sector providers in WHP
and Orange area businesses in the provision of infrastructure
planning, governance and development
■ facilitate business introductions in Mt Hagen, Port Moresby and
across PNG when appropriate
■ conduct forums to inform appropriate businesses in the Orange
area of opportunities and processes for engagement
■ facilitate contact of Orange region businesses with the key
stakeholders in WHP
■ encourage local farmers to access itinerant workers from WHP in
consultation with the WHP Governor’s Office.
In this way, the existing relationship between OCC and WHP has provided a springboard for local Orange companies to expand into international business. In February this year, meetings were held between Orange and Mt Hagen business leaders and, with the recent completion of the 2012 PNG elections, an OCC-hosted visit to Mt Hagen will be undertaken in August 2012. This will pursue opportunities for business support identified under the Agreement, linking them into the overall objectives of the AusAID-funded capacity building program. The visit will also include involvement of a number of OCC staff in:
■ working with the local women’s group on craft and development
of programs to support decision-making
■ meetings with local businesses on capacity and the role women
might play in developing new businesses relating to the mining
industry and community infrastructure
■ meeting with a men’s group on changing attitudes to women’s
role in decision-making, and using rugby league as a vehicle for
behaviour change on violence and sexual health
■ working with Mt Hagen Councillors and staff on attitudes to
women in decision-making
■ involving Orange business leaders in developing decision-making
models surrounding the implementation of the Mount Hagen Urban Plan.
Lessons and approach
The Mt Hagen work demonstrates a drift from north/south capacity building (from developed to undeveloped countries) to a more regionally focused approach, that is, a south/south networking between neighbours with similar challenges. The new relationships are seen as having benefits beyond capacity, with new learning across culture – whether that addresses diversity of beliefs and nationality or a simple city-country divide.
Discourse is pivotal to the success of this ongoing relationship. So far, open exchange has engendered mutual commitment and goodwill
as well as extensive inter-organisational learning and development of social capital. Power has been exercised with a view to harnessing a
win/win outcome for the stakeholders. OCC’s ‘win’ is most apparent in the skill development of Council staff.
Effective collaboration is another must, using key collaborative structures that are flexible, responsive and open. These must grow ‘organically’, to meet the needs of the stakeholders. Structures imposed either by governments or statutes will not engender true ownership and will fail unless stakeholders embrace facilitation, emissary or almost diplomatic values in managing outcomes.
Options for meeting community need that facilitate empowerment, ownership trust, goodwill and commitment are in the hands of communities, since it is not government that empowers people, people empower each other. The MHULLG is very positive about the future of its city and sees significant opportunities for progress. It is extremely appreciative of the assistance provided by Orange City Council and looks forward to continuing this relationship as it works towards improving the quality of services for the residents of Mt Hagen and the Western Highlands region of PNG.