15 Jul 2004

NZ Council for International Development questions call to abolish communal land ownership

10:25 am on 15 July 2004

New Zealand's Council for International Development says a call for Papua New Guinea to abolish communal ownership of land to encourage economic development would destroy their culture.

The suggestion is part of a report called "Can PNG Come Back From The Brink?" written by Australian University Professor Helen Hughes.

She says PNG is one of the worst performers among developing nations and needs to institute sweeping economic reforms to avoid becoming dysfunctional.

Professor Hughes says no country with communally owned land has ever developed.

But the executive director of CID, Rae Julian, says Professor Hughes is talking about dismantling an entire culture.

"In other words, reducing a country where everything is based on clans, is based on people working within extended family groups, into a whole lot of indivduals, creating a nation of individuals working in competition with each other."

And Rae Julian says Helen Hughes is wrong to say that communal land ownership cannot work and she points to successful Maori tribes in New Zealand, such as Ngai Tahu.