A Chinese company has been talking with representatives of Papua New Guinea’s Western Province about an ‘ambitious’ plan to build a multibillion-dollar city on an island less than 200 kilometres from the Australian mainland.
Hong Kong-registered company, WYW Holding Ltd, has proposed to transform part of Daru Island, in the Torres Strait in PNG’s Western Province, into an industrial zone, seaport, business and commercial zone.
Leaked documents seen by the ABC referred to the proposed new area as “New Daru City” with a projected cost of $39 billion. It will include a resort as well as a 100-square-kilometre residential area.
But China’s interest in PNG’s most impoverished province is likely to escalate concerns within Australian security agencies.
In December 2020, it was revealed a different Chinese company called Fujian Zhonghong Fishery had signed a memorandum of understanding with the PNG government to build a $204 million “comprehensive multifunctional fishery industrial park”.
Community leaders in north Queensland raised concerns it would jeopardise border security and the commercial fishing sector.
Now Daru, one of few Torres Strait Islands governed by PNG rather than Australia, has WYW Holding chief executive Terence Mo eager to work with the PNG government.
He first expressed interest in creating “economic growth through infrastructure development” on Daru Island in April 2020, when he wrote to PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape.
Mr Mo said it would be “an honour” to work with Mr Marape to implement his “investment and development plan”, which included “broad-ranging ideas” not just for Daru, but other areas of PNG’s Western Province.
The leaked documents described the plan as ambitious and designed to give WYW Holding complete control and ownership of the project for a set time.
The company said it had started preliminary talks with representatives of the Western Province.
Despite Mr Mo’s letter to Mr Marape in April 2020, a spokesman for the PM said he was unaware of WYW Holding’s plan for a “New Daru City”.
“However, if a foreign investor wants to come to PNG with multimillion kina investments, PNG will not stop them … on the condition our legal laws are complied with and local Papua New Guineans benefit,” the spokesperson told the ABC.
WYW Holding’s chairman Calvin Ng also wrote to Mr Marape, saying PNG could “advance significantly through appropriate infrastructure development, modern communications, efficient transport systems and natural resource exploitation”.
“We are very excited by the prospect of collaborating with your government in the development of both infrastructure and natural resource projects,” Mr Ng said.
A project such as this would first require feedback from local landowners, multiple levels of government, and members of the community, meaning it would be difficult to progress without widespread approval.