Loving it in the wild west

This blog is temporarily about travel in Solomon Islands and homeschooling

We have spent more than 2 weeks travelling around Western Province – this is the place in Solomon Islands that visitors love to come because there are three stunning lagoons (one, the Marovo Lagoon was nearly made a World Heritage Site and perhaps should still be).

Lagoons are sheltered waters surrounded by reef and island barriers to the open sea and in Marovo, Roviana and Vona Vona lagoons case all peppered with hundreds of gorgeous islands. Some islands are big enough to live on, some just a few metres wide – including Kennedy Island which was where JFK (who went on to be US president) was rescued during the massive US-Japanese conflict during World War 2.

As I have far less friends living in the West than back in Honiara (the main city) we’ve had to pay for accommodation everywhere. The result is we’re now much poorer, but expert at telling you where are fab places to stay. Actually they are all good, but different places will suit different moods. After a two-hour lunch of roti, fried rice and tropical smoothies at Gizo’s best eatery, La Masa, we produced a top seven. Here it goes:

#1 Tetepare – “the rarest creature on Tetepare is you”
#2= Sanbis and Lola (Zipu Habu) resorts – “serious comfort, fantastic food, snorkelling and the internet!”
#4 Imbu Rano, Kolombangara – “the best walk in the rainforest, ever”
#5 Agnes Lodge, Munda – “great base for looking at WW2 sites, especially if you are guided by Barney Polsen”
#6 Paradise Lodge, Gizo – “great view, best value and best breakfasts”
#7 Gizo Hotel, Gizo – “super convenient with a wonderful swimming pool”

Here’s Nell’s verdict on the best place out west:
Nell: “Tetepare was the best place in western province of Solomon Islands because it is the largest uninhabited island in the Pacific. It is full of wildlife and real rainforests. While I was there I snorkelled with dugongs, helped tag turtles, saw a real saltwater crocodile and many other exciting things. One of the most exciting things was seeing the black tip sharks, every day at about 5pm in the afternoon the staff on the island feed the sharks fish guts. Sharks and crocodiles are sacred animals, and in Tetepare’s history no human being has ever been killed by a shark or crocodile there because they worship them.”

Who lives where?Solomon Island’s population is rising fast – it’s more than doubled in 20 years so now there are around 600,000 people (was 250,000). This means lots of people are having trouble finding land to build new homes. The land exists but it’s often owned by someone else (or a family group) and is not for sale, regardless of price. As a result a new survey has found that in some places the Solomons villages and towns are more densely populated than super-crowded cities like Hong Kong. Honestly, this is hard to get your head around – but here’s a discussion paper explaining it all from the experts at Pacific Institute of Public Policy

PRESS RELEASE
URBAN HYMNS: Managing urban growth

It may come as a surprise, but some towns and cities in the Pacific are more densely populated than Hong Kong or New York.

The Pacific Institute of Public Policy has now released its latest briefing paper, looking at the need for Pacific nations to better manage urbanisation. It suggests the need for political will and to start framing the discussion in a more positive light.

Urbanisation needs to be managed and viewed as a national priority. It requires governments to give serious consideration to housing, health, education, land, investment and employment policies; it requires people to think about how they want to live – to define what it means to be a Pacific islander in the 21st century.

According to Dr. Paul Jones of the Urban and Regional Planning Program at the University of Sydney:

“People move for a variety of reasons, such as health, education and the excitement of the bright lights of the bigger towns and cities. People see urban areas as an alternative to rural life. Sadly, for many people, they are moving from one situation of poverty to another – that is, to towns and cities. In other words, urban poverty is seen as a better option than staying in rural poverty.”
Understanding the rural-urban relationship is vital as this means the social, cultural, economic and political relationships between urban and rural areas will better inform policies to define how we want our towns and cities to evolve, and how we can better serve remote outer island populations. Pacific governments generally seem to have been caught in a policy paralysis when it comes to urbanisation, perhaps hoping that the next generation will deal with it. Well the next generation is here and its time to act.

PiPP is an independent think tank that exists to stimulate and support policy debate in the Pacific region.

For more information, please contact Talita Tu’ipulotu on ttuipulotu@pacificpolicy.org

The full discussion paper can be downloaded from the PiPP website – pacificpolicy.org

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