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4 Apr 2022

Natalie Whiting, ABC NEWS (Australia)

Papua New Guinea: Skyscraper built by China Railway Construction Engineering Group sparks safety concerns after discovery of more than 70 defects

"Chinese investors promised PNG a 'gorgeous and glistening' skyscraper. Now it stands 'dangerous' and vacant", 4 April 2022

One building rises above the others on Port Moresby's skyline.

But the Noble Centre, built by a Chinese state-owned enterprise to be the tallest building in the country, sits empty.

The 23-storey tower has been deemed uninhabitable after the discovery of more than 70 defects, which regulators say are a threat to the building and to people's safety.

Documents obtained by the ABC outline dozens of serious issues including mechanical, electrical and fire safety concerns.

The faults are at various times described as "highly illegal", "non-compliant", "poorly installed" and "dangerous". [...]

Posts on the Noble Centre's Facebook page in 2020 advertised office spaces, describing the building as "gorgeous and glistening" and promising prospective tenants it could "accelerate your business" and "enhance your life".

But in September last year, the National Capital District Building Board wrote to advise that the occupancy certificate for the building had been rescinded.

The letter, obtained by the ABC, said the board had no other option "in the interest of public and immediate tenants' safety".

The decision was made after the PNG Ports Corporation ordered a technical report be done on the building, given growing concerns about its quality. [...]

The China Railway Construction Engineering Group (PNG) Real Estate Co went to court in Port Moresby in early October to prevent news coverage of any leaked documents about the building defects. [...]

The China Railway Construction Engineering Group (PNG) Real Estate Co declined to respond to detailed questions from the ABC, saying the issues covered "ongoing business negotiations with our business partner PNG Ports Corporation". 

"We are yet to reach some understanding on how to proceed with the project works and how to continue our co-operations both technically and financially," a spokesperson said in an email.

The company said it did not think "media exposure at this stage" would be good for the ongoing discussions and that as a "responsible business partner and out of business ethics" it would abide by the confidentiality terms in its agreement with PNG Ports. 

"The issue between PNG Ports Corporation and our company remains purely an issue of business co-operation at company level and will not impact on any higher level on broad terms."

The Chinese Embassy in PNG said in a statement that it was "an undeniable fact" that the two countries have carried out "economic, trade and investment cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit" which had "been well received from both sides". [...]