THE AIR has cleared after plans of the Australian government to build a consulate in Bougainville met with a rebuke from senior levels of the PNG Government.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced in May that a diplomatic post would be established in Buka, Bougainville, one of five proposed.

“These new missions will advance trade and investment opportunities for Australia and provide Australians with a greater level of consular assistance when travelling and working overseas,” she said at the time.

However, this move led to immediate protests by the PNG government, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill saying he was “shocked” to learn of the plan.

Following on from this announcement, the PNG government moved to restrict access for Australians travelling to Bougainville, with PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato saying support for development on Bougainville should be treated differently to managing sensitivities of the peace process and elections.

Nonetheless, the travel ban was removed in early June, after Mr O’Neill and Mr Pato met with Ms Bishop at a meeting in Japan.

“Prime Minister O’Neill reaffirmed Papua New Guinea’s position that the Government does not approve of the establishment of an Australian diplomatic mission on Bougainville,” Mr Pato said in an announcement.

“We recognise that there was a serious lapse in communication and we can now move on from this issue.”