LAE, THE SECOND LARGEST CITY IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA, WAS OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED AS A SISTER CITY TO CAIRNS IN 1984. IN FACT, CAIRNS IS THE CLOSEST AUSTRALIAN CITY TO THE FOREIGN CAPITAL, PORT MORESBY. AS PAPUA NEW GUINEA CONTINUALLY DEVELOPS AS A NATION, THERE IS RECOGNISED POTENTIAL FOR CAIRNS TO BENEFIT FROM AND SHARE IN THE FUTURE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND VICE VERSA.
Tropical trade expertise groups, such as TradeLinked Cairns-Papua New Guinea/Pacific, help to create business and educational partnerships between Cairns and Papua New Guinea in many fields, including education and training, aviation and health research programs run by James Cook University and Papua New Guinean institutions. With these close connections, come excellent business opportunities for both Cairns and Papua New Guinea strengthening the already established business relationships between the two nations.
The opportunities for Cairns-based businesses in Papua New Guinea are many and varied. Papua New Guinea, with its incredibly rich and fertile lands, a growing population of over 8 million people and the most diverse and interesting cultures in the world, is a wonder to behold and those who visit are often charmed by the place. Several thousand Cairns residents are of Papua New Guinea origin and Cairns ranks among the highest of any Australian city when it comes to weekly flights to Papua New Guinea.
TradeLinked Cairns-Papua New Guinea/Pacific, established in 2011, works as a networking conduit to promote trade and business between Cairns, Port Moresby, Lae and Bougainville, and is a centerpoint for existing and emerging business opportunities in Papua New Guinea. TradeLinked’s business to business network sits under the Cairns Chamber of Commerce with a key role of further developing business and trade activities between the Cairns region and PNG, predominantly in Port Moresby and Lae. However, over the last few years activities have expanded to include Bougainville and more recently other areas of the Pacific. TradeLinked has also developed many contacts throughout industry and government with which it can partner to deliver on specific projects.
Founding member of the TradeLinked Cairns-Papua New Guinea/Pacific network and a board member of Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Gary Aylward explains why the commercial ties between Cairns and Papua New Guinea are going from strength to strength.
“The TradeLinked group has been a specialised group that focused on businesses in Cairns and PNG for the best part of a decade,” Gary said. “What we try is to do business-to-business networking, introductions and matching services that people are looking for, and to build relationships for trade. It really is about growing the opportunities and economies in both countries.
“In the past, business between Cairns and PNG has been ‘emerging’, meaning that efforts to generate excitement can be a little hit and miss,” he continues. “As a result, there are a lot of people here who’ve done business in Papua New Guinea who just keep on doing business with Papua New Guinea but there’s never really been a strong regional push. However, thanks to advocacy groups like TradeLinked and the Chamber of Commerce, that push has finally started to gain momentum over the last couple of years.
“In terms of existing commercial ties, Cairns provides business services, technical expertise and educational and vocational training services. James Cook University has partnerships with several PNG counterparts and Tropical North Queensland TAFE now conducts courses in PNG.
“We’ve noticed demand for business services from PNG rising recently due to the fact that so many Papua New Guineans are now connected and have become consumers in their own right. The aviation industry is still growing exponentially – this includes maintenance of aircraft and helicopters that travel between the two countries, as well as training for aircraft maintenance with Air Niugini.”
Health services are also an extremely important area of business, Gary explains. “Tropical medicine, especially for paramedics and medivac services to Cairns, is very important in PNG. Education is the second largest industry between Cairns and PNG: Education – James Cook University, Central Queensland University, TAFE and private training colleges sectors are very active in the PNG market, including the secondary schools.”
“In addition, government trade dictates that it’s not just a tourism destination – the tropical expertise, architecture, water treatment and management plans are a priority. These then feed into health services, waste management and environmental services,” says Gary. “Lae has a very strong commercial industrial footprint. For example, with underground copper and gold mines being developed outside of Lae – this makes trade very specific and important to Cairns.”
“Trade between Cairns and PNG will continually strengthen, so we need to share ideas and network to make that happen.”