BY GEORGINA KEKEA
HONIARA and the surrounding urban areas have the highest levels of population growth in the South Pacific, and the population could treble by 2050.
A report on Urbanization said urban population growth will continue.
This means that people will need homes, land and service. However Honiara do not have the capability to meet such demand, thus it is important that proactive and innovative planning is needed to meet future needs of Solomon Islanders.
Home affordability is said to be a concern for many and more options are needed to house people residing in Honiara. The report said failure to engage in urban land issues could lead to law and order problems in the future.
Generally the report found that people were willing to work with the government or anyone else to achieve better services including community policing, stronger local governance and community projects. Greater economic opportunities and better access to services and goods are only in Honiara. But there is a call for more certainty of land tenure.
It is estimated that the population of Honiara could reach 350,000 by 2050. This is about 250,000 more than the population in Honiara now. It is projected that such a large number of people will put a lot of pressure on land, infrastructure and services. It is said that most of Honiara land is already settled with little space for more settlements.
Speaking to Radio New Zealand recently, Acting Lands Commissioner, Alan McNeil says the way people have been acquiring land in Honiara needs to be changed. McNeil said applications for government land needs to be stopped as there is a severe shortage of land.
“As the government land gets eaten over time, what’s left is either road reserved or very unusable land like very steep land and as people become more desperate, they are applying for those land. Basically there is no more land left”.
The Urbanization report however says planning for the expansion of Honiara and the surrounding region to best accommodate the estimated 39,000 additional households by 2050 will require ongoing community engagement.
The report said supporting urban development is a long-term challenge and so it is important to be realistic.
“Improving the way different levels of government coordinate is particularly important. Credible urban policy and planning is needed”.