Two weeks ago I was in Kokopo, in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea with a dedicated team from The Nature ConservancyCSIRO and the University of Queensland. I was there to help facilitate one of their workshops on delivering tools that can help local-level governments (LLGs) work towards creating their land- and sea-use plans, ultimately informing their own sustainable development plans.

This workshop was part of a larger project, The Bismarck Sea Adaptive Governance Project, and was designed to help align with the National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development for Papua New Guinea (StaRS). The national strategy envisions responsible development by 2050, breaking down this ultimate 30-year goal into 20-year, 5-year and annual plans to work towards their 2050 vision. The tools workshop we delivered in East New Britain was aimed at working towards planning at the LLG-level, helping these communities to craft out their 5-year plans, based on their own visions and goals. Representatives from eight LLGs attended the workshop, as well as representatives from the national authorities, provincial-level government, local NGOs and villages. It was great to see representation from so many levels of government/leadership, as well as gender equity in representation.

The first day of the workshop focused on brainstorming and formulating their own 2050 visions for the respective LLGs. This was a necessary precursor to helping the LLGs come up with their specific goals and strategies that would help them work towards achieving their 2050 visions.


Day two of the workshop concentrated on defining the individual “use” zones for each of the LLGs’ land and sea areas based on the ultimate goals of each LLG. This was an important step in thinking about the different purposes or activities each LLG want from their natural resources and the amount of area that would be needed for each. This included considering areas of constraints or unavailable land to maintain sustainable development, food security, terrestrial and marine conservation, sustainable forestry and agricultural, as well as potential areas for ecotourism activities. An underlying aspect that all LLGs needed to consider was the population growth rate that is unfolding in each of their LLGs; it is not easy predicting the exact area that would be required to, for example, guarantee food security for a rapidly-expanding population! A key outcome to the zoning exercise was being able to understand and foresee the areas of potential conflict between opposing uses or objectives (e.g., terrestrial conservation and sustainable agriculture). Conversely, it was also useful to be able to outline where complementary zones overlapped and achieved multiple use objectives (e.g., terrestrial conservation and constraint areas).

Getting into the juicy part of the workshop…

The last day of the workshop worked with the LLGs to look at conflict areas and how these can be avoided, minimised or mitigated when finalising their zoning plans. This is not a straightforward task because there is no one answer, but we spent the morning having engaged open discussions on ways each of the LLGs could deal with each of their respective areas of conflict.

Draft zoning plan of use zones for one of the LLGs

These workshops are part of a “drilling down” process from prioritisations for important terrestrial and marine areas undertaken at a national scale. The process involves translating the broad regional plans to finer-scale plans at the provincial and LLG-level, which are the scales at which actions are actually applied in PNG (and many other Melanesian contexts). Integrating between and across these different administrative scales to implement regional conservation plans is a key focus of my research. My aim is to use this project and others as case studies to understand and assess the different ways we have been able to integrate across these scales, which of these have been more successful than others, and the reasons or conditions why.

If any of this work sounds interesting to you, feel free to drop me a line anytime, at:

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