Improving access to land within settlements of Port Moresby


Improving access to land in the Pacific remains a difficult problem. This paper presents results from a field survey conducted in 12 randomly selected settlements in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, to investigate how settlers acquire land for housing. The analysis shows that several means for land acquisition is used; ranging from outright occupation (that is, land invasion) to purchase of use-rights from the customary landowners. The security of tenure on land held under customary title is maintained using mechanisms ranging from group occupation by members of a clan/tribe to the use of the traditional systems of reciprocation and token-exchange. Security of tenure on land held by the state, in contrast, is maintained thorough political patronage. Settlers fear eviction more from the state than the customary owners suggesting that ownership rights are relatively more secure on land held under customary title. The length of occupation is viewed by the settlers as cementing their ownership-rights to the occupied land. Similarly, some of the settlers have over-capitalised into permanent housing with the understanding that the State would have to compensate them for the improvements should they be evicted.

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