The wages paradox here in Port Moresby

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wages situation here in PNG, lots of us talk about the same issues….

The big issue for our National staff is family commitments, with no social welfare, and very little in the way of significant employment, our teams by default start being the caregiver for their whole families. Where we in NZ get plenty of government assistance, Papua New Guineans are reliant on family or the village in order to live.

And here lies the paradox – the wage trap, the skill trap, the sole earner trap.

As soon as someone starts earning more, there is a lot more pressure to ensure that they are looking after everyone else. As income rises, so does the expectation. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that this happens, and maybe it’s a blueprint for crowd sourced social welfare. But the impact is significant, and as the expectation grows, the employee may start slipping in those standards that got them there in the first place. All of a sudden, they are the taxi driver, or the funeral director, or the university funder. So often I watch young Papua New Guineans drift from being the person at work first in the morning, to now not getting in on time due to having to drop off cousins, brothers, sisters etc, or ensuring that the family is OK. I worry that this will then turn into performance issues, then disciplinary action, then all of a sudden – the rising star with the big ideas and great opportunities ends up with no job, no money, and having to create a new start.

It is also amazing watching those that earn the least, being the ones getting themselves into work early, working hard, and doing their absolute best. They really need to keep their jobs, and having less money means a lessened impact on family commitments….

So today, I coined the phrase with Jono (one of my team) “the minimum for the maximum”

In other words, we need to get people to live the minimum way of life, to maximize their income, to maximize their opportunities, and to maximize their future. To work like they are just starting out, to live comfortably, and maximize the growth that they have by ensuring a future that exists for all.

Can it be done? I don’t know, but unless we do something for our young men and women, they may not be the future of this country, they may be those that just get chewed up…

3 years on, our PNG adventure continues

I began this journey well over 3 years ago, but arrived here in Port Moresby on the 18th August 2011, 3 very short years ago.

Over the past 3 years, I think I have answered a few thousand emails from people wanting to move to PNG, met lots of people via my blog, and I think it’s fair to say, generally given people a balanced viewpoint on living and working here in Port Moresby.

Some people that have contacted me through my blog have become our lifelong friends, our family. Moving here with a young family has meant that we have watched our children and our friends children all grow up together, and as some of our friends depart these shores to parts and places all around the world, we know that in the future we will meet again. Our children will always have wantok’s no matter where they go, and the world becomes a much smaller place.

When we arrived here, my little one was 1 year old. She doesn’t remember living in NZ and Papua New Guinea is her home. We go “on holiday” to New Zealand, which must be amazing for a little girl. She doesn’t “see” race, or skin colour, and she is happy with the little things she has. My big kids need more, but they are now more in tune with the effects of poverty and hardship than they ever could be back in NZ, and I hope that when they grow up they will take a lot of the life skills they have learned here in PNG and turn them to do good in the future.

And although this might be the end of our 3 year contract, it isn’t the end of our journey here in Port Moresby. My company has extended my contract for another 3 years, which really sounds like a lifetime away now. As the older children transition into High School, we may have to reassess if things don’t work out, but we are still here, still trying to make a difference, and still helping new people and families with the information and tools that they need when they move here to PNG.

Sadly though, we have watched many of our friends depart. Some have finished contracts, some have had other opportunities, a lot are finishing up this year. It is sad knowing that your support group is leaving, but I am sure that those voids will be filled by other families, and our close bonds will get closer.

We have experienced amazing things; just 2 weeks ago, Xanthe (our eldest) had a week long school camp at Tufi Dive Resort. Last year it was Kokopo and Rabaul… Awesome memories! We have had some real highs, (Kokopo was a high) and some real lows (being stuck in the middle of a bush knife fight), but we have never really regretted the decision to come here.

We have watched Port Moresby grow into a very modern city at such a fast rate, and have watched as my staff have gone from
a young team, to one that could easily perform on the world stage.

We are onto our 3rd High Commissioner (maybe there is a job there for me one day – not!), and back home in NZ we are about to have another general election (the 2nd since leaving). Our home back in Dunedin is onto its 2nd lot of tenants, and the place might needed to be painted this year – it is hard having a rental back in NZ, and if I did it all over again, I would have sold the property so that would be one less thing to worry about.

We’ve also had some fantastic holidays, not just back to New Zealand, but also here in PNG, to Singapore, Australia, and Vanuatu. Next year we may go a little further and take the children to Disneyland whilst we are all together.

We never bought a boat here, and for some reason don’t get invited out that much, however – with 3 kids, it can be hard for others to invite such a big family… If I was to move up again, I would have thrown a couple of jetski’s into the container – much cheaper back home than here. But we are Ok with the time we get to go out, and of course are very grateful when we do.

I have some pretty cool ideas to take the next step with my blog, and have been doing some video’s that I intend to upload to YouTube so hopefully I can get that going soon.

But until that happens, there is plenty of work, Bedisloe Cup watching with the Kiwi Club, and the bi-annual Kiwi Club ball is coming up in October. There’s always plenty of parties – sometimes too many, we’d love to catch them all, but it can be hard. And there is the annual trip back to NZ for Christmas coming up soon. Jacinta and the kids get out for the entire school holidays as it is a little boring, but also damn hot here in Moresby.

As I turn another chapter over, I would like to thank everyone for commenting on my blog, and making it into the resource it is. There was nothing like this when I moved up here, and I trust that the information and insight into PNG and Port Moresby really does help.

Again, if you see us out and about, please stop us for a quick Hi! We really appreciate knowing that we helped in your decision to make a difference here in Papua New Guinea.


Lunch this week at The Aviat

Thought this might be valuable for those of you coming up to see what a nice lunch at the Aviat costs:

Daily Specials
7th July 2014
Monday Lunch
Garlic Prawns w/ rice & vegetables K30.00
Pepper Steak w/ chips & salad K25.00
Stir Fry Chicken w/ fried rice K25.00

Tuesday Lunch
Sambal Lobster w/ spicy fried rice K40.00
Beef schnitzel w/ chips & salad K25.00
Peppered Chicken w/chips & salad K25.00

Wednesday Lunch
Pork Loin Chop w/chips & salad K30.00
Garlic Chicken Breast w/ fried rice K25.00
Beef & Mushroom Pie w/ mash & peas K25.00

Thursday Lunch
Roast Pork w/ roast potato & pumpkin K30.00
Beef Goulash w/ mash & peas K25.00
Chicken Schnitzel & Sambal Sauce w/ rice & vegetables K25.00

Friday Lunch
Beer Battered Barramundi w/ chips & salad K30.00
Peppered Chicken w/ chips & salad K25.00
Lemon Pepper Chicken w/ fried rice K25.00

At the moment the exchange rate means a K25 meal = AUD$9.80 or NZD$10.50 – yes, that’s Lobster on Tuesday for well under 20 bucks ;)


Susu Mama’s Ball 2014 – Port Moresby

If you were lucky to get a ticket to last nights Susu Mama’s charity ball then you would have had a great night, and if you didn’t, you missed out on a wonderful event.

This years theme was 1920’s Prohibition, so we all got “locked in” to the Crowne Plaza’s Ballroom, for a 3 course meal, entertainment (dancers and a magician) and a band to dance the night away. I wish I had some real deal Hokonui Moonshine for the night, but not even the local brew “Steam” made it – truth be told, Steam is nasty!

There was the normal door prize, a whole lot of raffles, charity auction, and the beau and belle of the ball prize. I think I was setup, as I won the beau prize for best dressed male – and I just grabbed some clothes out of the closet…! Not sure if that makes me an OG (Original Gangster (read: You got nothin coming)), but it was certainly a little embarrassing as people had put some massive effort into dressing up for the night. In fact I think it really was the best dressed ball :)

When they publish some photos I will get them up..

So, one of the must thing you must bring with you to Moresby is clothing for black tie events, guys a bow tie makes you look damn sharp ;)

I think the next major ball (aside from the K50,000 a ticket charity event tonight – yes, K50,000 A TICKET! ). Is the Kiwi Club ball – which is sure to be a sellout again.

Get your dancin shoes on!

Where to watch “the game” in Port Moresby

Last night reminded me why it’s great being a kiwi… The mighty All Blacks, rusty as all hell – getting across the line against the old foe England in our national game – rugby.

So, you arrive in PNG, get Hitron hooked up, and then discover that AB’s vs Springbok game isn’t on ANY channel… You flick from one Aussie channel to another, and can’t find it anywhere – you are in Rugby hell (Australian TV). Welcome to Port Moresby 2 years ago….

Have no fear rugby followers, although free to air Aussie tests are played on Channel 10 (currently Hitron Channel 60), all other games are generally shown on Foxtel (Aussie paid TV – like SKY). Woohoo! So we can get Foxtel here in PNG? Hmmmm. Actually, you can’t… However, if you have a big enough dish, pointed the right way, and with a paid Foxtel decoder (that you pay for in Aussie) then you too can have Foxtel… Or, when the game is on – you could just head down to kiwi expat Graham Osbourne’s bar “Ozzies” down at the Ela Beach hotel, grab a beer (SP of course), and enjoy the live feed on 2 big screen TV’s.

Of course, there is the inevitable PNG moments, the power going off in the game, or.. Like last night – the bar being drunk dry! And if you are there early – 1 to 1.5 hours before the game you can get front seats and a table. Arrive just before the game and it’s standing room only! And yes, if the game is on at 3am in the morning – it will be open :). If you need to check, ring the hotel the day before – or ring Scotty down at “The Edge” (another Osbourne eatery) to get a heads up.

The morning games are actually pretty good at Ozzies, with the restaurant next door, a waiter will take your breakfast order, make you a coffee etc…

Sometimes, the rain gets in the dish – so the whole system is bagarup. Get the boys to go up to the roof and clean out the water and it’s all good!

Last night was pretty epic – it seriously was a full packed house. People were outside in the doorway, the bar was 5 deep, and the banter was fantastic. When the game ended, all the Aussie’s were hanging outside for the Aussie vs France game, not realizing that there was no more beer inside.

Anyway – you wanna watch the game – you just got the insiders tip ;)