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Buin - doorway to the Solomons

Of all Papua New Guinea's larger islands, Bougainville is the furthest away from Port Moresby. And Buin, on its south coast, is both the most distant major settlement from the capital and the closest to the Solomon Islands.

In fact so close are the Solomons to Bougainville that people of Shortland Island often cross the straits to shop and attend hospital in Buin. In the past, headhunters from New Georgia in the Solomons regularly raided the Buin people and finally drove them inland where they now live. Some of the raiders stayed and became chiefs, a few of their tall descendants still live in the Buin area.

As in Kieta and Buka, the first white men to settle on the flat Buin coast were Marist missionaries who were based on nearby Poporang Island in the Solomons. In 1903 a Father Perpezar erected a small hut at the foot of Kangu Hill. He died six weeks later of malaria but the mission had begun. From there it spread right through Buin into the Siwai and today has a large following.

Roughly the same time as Father Perpezar's visit, a Chinese trader, Chong You, erected a trade store on the beach at Kangu. He later left for Buka but today there are a number of such trade stores in Buin.

In 1905 the Germans opened their first district office at Kieta but contact with Buin was confined to a few patrols into the area to put down tribal disturbances. In 1914 Australia took over in the territory and opened a patrol post at Kangu Beach. Life proceeded undisturbed in the Buin area for another 30 years before the Japanese invasion.

The Japanese turned Buin into a huge military base, taking advantage of the nearby Tonolei HArbour as anchorage for their fleet. They built airstrips and linked them by road and railway line. Eighteen months later Americans landed 70 miles up the west coast at Torokina and Australian troops began moving towards Buin.

Surrender came before Buin was reached but tremendous damage and loss of life had been caused by aerial bombardment and lack of food. Immediately work began in bringing the area back to normal. The Japanese railway to the Buin airfield was turned into a road and the airfield was retained for commercial traffic.

Inland Buin was selected as a preferable spot to the Kangua coastal area and slowly the inland settlement developed at the expense of the coastal area. Today Buin is the 40th biggest town in the territory containing 50 Europeans and 613 local people. It has trade stores, two guest houses, two clubs and a relatively large administration work force.

The road system extends along the west coast as far as Sikoreva in Nagovisi. By June Bana Council hopes to have open a three mile stretch linking the road from Kieta to the Jaba River with the one from Sikoreva to Buin. This means cocoa producers in South Bougainville will be able to truck their produce to Kieta instead of using the expensive sea route.

Courtesy PANGUNA-The Voice of Bougainville Copper