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The Honourable Moses Garu, Solomon Islands Minister of Lands, Housing and Survey, launched the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) report on Urban Development in Honiara: Harnessing Opportunities, Embracing Change on 18 May 2017. The report is the product of a year-long research project on Urbanisation in Honiara. Led by Meg Keen, a team of ANU scholars (Julien Barbara, Jessica Carpenter, Daniel Evans and Joseph Foukona) with significant Solomon Islands experience conducted workshops, discussion groups and individual interviews with well over 200 people. Case studies from other capital cities in Melanesia with lessons for Honiara are also included in the report.
The research responded to rising concerns about rapid urbanisation in Honiara. By 2050, it is forecast that population growth in the Honiara region will treble from its current figure of about 100,000. This rapid growth is putting pressure on land, housing, services and transport. However, the report emphases that while urbanisation can generate social challenges, if well managed it can also be a driver for national development, as has occurred in many other developed nations.
The launch was attended by many Honiara residents, including representatives from the Solomon Islands Government, foreign missions, and representatives from the business and donor community. At the launch, Minister Garu argued that ‘…..urban planning and development must be more inclusive, so communities and their leaders can help shape the city and take action. There is much for Government to do, but we all need to work together’. The Minister’s speech is available here.
Among the report’s key findings is that urbanisation can be a win-win for urban and rural areas if linkages are strengthened, such as through improved infrastructure, financial accessibility, and information and communication networks. Getting results, however, requires attention to governance and incentives. Good planning helps, but it is not enough. Compliance requires public awareness and engagement, strong regulation and enforcement, and supportive partnerships. Some first steps with strong social support and development benefits include: expanding access to services through diversifying payment options; legalising and investing in markets across the greater Honiara region; and supporting more inclusive planning processes for peri-urban communities experiencing rapid urban growth.
The report was designed to inform policy debate around urbanisation issues in Honiara and provide policy options to the Solomon Islands Government. Further to the report, SSGM has released a compendium of our In Briefs which provide an overview of SSGM urban research to date, available here.