There is some risk to your security in Papua New Guinea due to violent crime and the potential for civil unrest and we advise caution.
Civil unrest/political tension
Political tensions are currently high in Papua New Guinea and are likely to increase over the next few months with elections scheduled for mid-2012. New Zealanders in Papua New Guinea are advised to monitor local events closely as the situation is unpredictable. New Zealanders currently in Port Moresby are advised to limit travel for the time being, due to disturbances at Murray and Taurama Barracks. In addition, we recommend particular care be exercised around the Supreme Court, Parliament House, Government House and Police Headquarters in Konedobu. Air Niugini advises that it has cancelled all domestic flights out of Port Moresby to Lae, Vanimo, Wewak and Kiunga until further notice. New Zealanders booked to fly domestically with Air Niugini are advised to contact the airline directly for further information. There have been a number of recent protest marches to Parliament in Port Moresby. Although most protests are peaceful, we recommend you avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as the have the potential to turn violent.
The law and order situation in Papua New Guinea continues to pose risks to travellers. There have been violent protests, riots and looting in particular against local Asian-owned businesses in Port Moresby, Lae, Madang, Mt Hagen and several other centres across Papua New Guinea. Clashes have occurred in Lae since 4 November 2011 and further violence could occur.
Tensions between ethnic or clan groups, particularly in the Highlands region and in larger cities such as Lae and Port Moresby, sometimes lead to outbreaks of tribal fighting, often involving the use of firearms. New Zealanders should stay clear of settlement (squatter) areas.
Violent crime including armed robbery, carjacking and sexual assault is common across the country. Organised criminal groups operate in Papua New Guinea but opportunistic crime is also a problem. Robberies have been known to take place inside business premises in Port Moresby and other urban centres. The settlement (squatter) areas of towns and cities, including in Port Moresby and Lae, are particularly dangerous.
New Zealanders in Papua New Guinea should exercise a high degree of personal security awareness at all times, especially in public places and areas frequented by foreigners. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery or carjacking, as this could lead to an escalation in violence. Avoid walking alone during the day and especially at night, and avoid displaying visible signs of wealth (i.e. don’t wear jewellery or carry any items that may be attractive to robbers). Isolated public areas such as golf courses, beaches and parks can be dangerous.
Armed and unarmed carjackings in Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen continue to be a problem, as well as in the area between Lae and Nadzab Airport although the use of violence in such cases is uncommon, especially if victims do not resist. Travel along the Highlands Highway can also be affected by tribal and community disputes. Armed robbery is also a regular occurrence, and road security conditions should be checked before commencing travel.
Drivers are urged to take extreme caution when driving at any time of the day or night. Always drive with windows closed and car doors locked. Where possible, avoid smaller or remote roads with less traffic. Should a driver be involved in or witness a road accident he/she may find themselves at personal risk as crowds tend to form quickly after an accident and they may attack those whom they perceive to be responsible. Persons involved in accidents should proceed directly to the nearest police station rather than stopping at the scene of an accident.
Visitors to Papua New Guinea should avoid using buses, known as PMVs (public motor vehicles) as they are poorly maintained and are targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from a reputable car hire company, taxi company, or hotel transportation are a safer alternative. Well established taxi services are only available in Port Moresby.
New Zealanders travelling outside the major cities in Papua New Guinea, especially to more isolated areas, should seek advice from the New Zealand High Commission before beginning their journey. Travel plans should be left with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts.
New Zealanders planning to travel to Bougainville should discuss their plans with the New Zealand High Commission before setting out. The central mountainous area around the old Panguna mine on Bougainville is a “no go zone” and New Zealanders are advised not to enter the area without seeking updated local advice. Foreigners who have previously entered without authorisation from the government have been questioned by the authorities and had their passports confiscated on departure from the zone. Travellers are advised to seek updated local advice before travelling south of Arawa.
New Zealanders intending to walk the Kokoda Track should hire a guide from a reputable travel company and ensure that the trekking permit is paid before embarking on the trip. Kokoda Track Authority Tel: +675 325 5540. Caution should be exercised as there have been attacks and robberies at each end of the trail. New Zealanders are advised to register with the New Zealand High Commission in Port Moresby before setting out on the walk and make contact again after completing the walk.
Unexploded ordnance from WWII still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay and Rabaul.
General travel advice
Medical services in Papua New Guinea are very limited and New Zealanders travelling or living in Papua New Guinea should have comprehensive medical and travel insurance policies in place that include provision for medical evacuation by air.
New Zealanders in Papua New Guinea are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.