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Papua New Guinea is made up from the eastern side of the large island of New Guinea and over 600 surrounding islands.  The total land area is 474,000 square kilometres. The main body is formed by rugged mountains wrapped by rolling foothills and coastal lowlands. Averaging 3000 metres above sea level, a complex of high mountain ranges run as a spine from east to west across the country.

The capital is Port Moresby with other major towns at Lae, Madang and Rabaul.

Water routes are vital to PNG as they provide the only access to many towns for large supplies and materials. A small shipping fleet carries supplies along a 5,000 kilometre coastline and 11,000 kilometres of rivers. There are no trains and only 700 kilometres of sealed highway. Air travel remains the only reliable way of getting to most regions so there are almost 500 airstrips, nearly all unsealed. 

Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources, but the rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure hamper exploration and mining. Over 90% of the land is covered by forest and there are active volcanoes in some regions with many areas subject to severe earthquakes and landslides. Three main natural resources, gold, copper and oil, account for over 70% of export earnings whilst silver and timber are becoming increasingly important.

Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for most of the population. The main agricultural products are grown in plantations and include coffee, cocoa, coconuts,

Port Moresby is a busy cosmopolitan city today located on rising ground around a big bay.  The people are well supplied with shopping centres, schools and local facilities.

Fisheries are also important both at the village and the commercial level. Environmental damage has occurred by excess deforestation from timber felling and pollution from the mining industry. Government and other agencies have monitored these environmental issues more closely in recent years.

 The climate of PNG is tropical. The northwest monsoons bring rain from about December to April. The southwest monsoons result in a drier climate from May to October. Average rainfall is approximately 250 cm annually. The mountains are cold and wet, the flatlands are hot and steamy, however PNG also experiences periods of severe drought.

The PNG population is approximately 5 million. English is the official language although the most commonly spoken languages are Pidgin and Motu. There are as many as 715 indigenous languages.  The religious beliefs of the people vary with approximately 44% being Protestant and 22% Roman Catholic. Indigenous traditional beliefs and ritual practices remain part of life for 34% of the people.

The PNG Parliament House, Port Moresby

After the Second World War, Australia continued to administer the territories of Papua in the south and New Guinea to the north, jointly and under a United Nations trusteeship. On 16 September 1975 Papua New Guinea became independent. The government and legal systems are based on the British model and are similar to those of Australia. The British monarch is the Head of State and represented in PNG by their Governor-General.  The National Parliament meets in Parliament House, Port Moresby and the members of Parliament serve for five-year terms. Adults over 18 years of age are eligible to vote.


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