PAPUA New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has pledged to work closely with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in drawing down powers during a visit to the Bougainville capital of Arawa.

Mr O’Neill and ABG president John Momis both spoke following a meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) in Arawa, Bougainville – a move Mr O’Neill said marked a new level of cooperation between the two governments.

“We all know there are many challenges ahead of us for Bougainville, for our nation and for our region, and these can be overcome when we work together,” he said.

“Outstanding matters such as the Peace Agreement, Special Intervention Fund, Provincial SIP (service improvement program), District SIP and Local Level SIP funding are being resolved.”

The National Government was working to draw down or transfer powers to Bougainville to increase service delivery at a local level, Mr O’Neill said.

Mr Momis welcomed Mr O’Neill to Bougainville, saying he was feeling positive about the future of the two governments, but urging the government to move ahead with allocating new powers to the island.

Among the powers sought from the PNG Government were within Fisheries, Environment and Conservation, Corrections, Police and Lands.

“We would like to see substantial progress in the drawdown of these powers in the coming year and are taking the bold step of requesting that all powers due to Bougainville must be Bougainville power lift aheadtransferred by the year 2016,” he said.

Taxation and grants were also discussed at the meeting, which concluded with the men signing a joint resolution.

The meeting followed the government’s re-opening of the Kieta (Aropa) Airport in December, bringing aerial services and opportunities to the Island after 23 years without.