Southern Highlands Province

Southern Highlands is a province in Papua New Guinea. Its provincial capital is the town of Mendi. According to Papua New Guinea's national 2011 census, the total population of Southern Highlands (after the separation of Hela Province) is 515,511 spread across 15,089 square kilometers (5,826 sq mi).

Southern Highlands Province
Sauten Hailans (Tok Pisin)
Saden Halens (Angal Dialect)
Southern Highlands Province
Southern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea
Coordinates: 6°10′S 143°20′E
CountryPapua New Guinea
  • Mendi-Munihu District District
  • Imbonggu District
  • Kagua-Erave District
  • Ialibu-Pangia
  • Nipa-Kutubu District
  GovernorSuspended since 16 June 2018
  Total15,089 km2 (5,826 sq mi)
 (2011 census)
  Density34/km2 (88/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+10 (AEST)
HDI (2018)0.479[1]
low · 21st of 22

Ethnic groups

Before the split there were two major ethnic groups, the Huli people and the Angal speakers. Today the majority of the population in Southern Highlands is made up of Angal or Angal Heneng speakers. They occupy the three provinces of Southern Highlands (Nipa, Mendi, Lai Valley, Imbongu (lower Mendi)), Hela (Magarima) and Enga (parts of Kandep).

Split to create Hela Province

In July 2009, Parliament passed legislation to create two new provinces by 2012. One of these was to be created by removing the districts of Tari-Pori, Komo-Magarima, and Koroba-Kopiago from the Southern Highlands Province to form the new Hela Province.[2] Hela Province officially came into being on 17 May 2012.[3]


After the split of Hela, the province is divided into roughly three distinct geographic regions:

  1. The West: which includes the Southern Highlands districts of Nipa, Mendi, Lai Valley, Imbogu (lower Mendi), Hela District of Magarima, Kutubu and part of Kendep (Enga Province), and is the home of the speakers of dialects of the Anggal Heneng language.
  2. The East: which includes the districts of Kagua, Ialibu, Pangia and Erave, and is the home of the speakers of the Imbongu, Kewa, and Wiru languages, and home to the second highest mountain in Papua New Guinea, Mount Giluwe.
  3. The Lowlands: which stretch across the southern part of the Southern Highlands province from the volcanic peaks of Mount Bosavi to include the oilfields of Lake Kutubu, and includes the language groups of Biami (shared with Western Province) Foe, and Fasu.

Districts and LLGs

There are five districts in the province. Each district has one or more Local Level Government (LLG) areas. For census purposes, the LLG areas are subdivided into wards and those into census units.[4][5][6]

DistrictDistrict CapitalLLG Name
Ialibu-Pangia District Ialibu East Pangia Rural
Ialibu Urban
Kewabi Rural
Wiru Rural
Imbonggu District Imbonggu Ialibu Basin Rural
Imbonggu Rural
Lower Mendi Rural
Kagua-Erave District Kagua Erave Rural
Kagua Rural
Kuare Rural
Aiya Rural
Mendi-Munihu District Mendi Karints Rural
Lai Valley Rural
Mendi Urban
Upper Mendi Rural
Nipa-Kutubu District Nipa Lake Kutubu Rural
Mount Bosavi Rural
Nembi Plateau Rural
Nipa Rural
Poroma Rural

Provincial leaders

The province was governed by a decentralised provincial administration, headed by a Premier, from 1978 to 1995. Following reforms taking effect that year, the national government reassumed some powers, and the role of Premier was replaced by a position of Governor, to be held by the winner of the province-wide seat in the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.[7][8]

Premiers (1978–1995)

Premier Term
Andrew Andaija1978–1980
Tegi Ebeial1980–1985
Yaungtine Koromba1985–1990
Albert Mokai1990–1992
provincial government suspended1992–1995

Governors (1995–present)

Governor Term
Dick Mune1995–1997
Anderson Agiru1997–2000
Hami Yawari2003–2006
Anderson Agiru2007–2012
William Powi2012–present

Members of the National Parliament

The province and each district is represented by a Member of the National Parliament. There is one provincial electorate and each district is an open electorate.

Electorate Member
Southern Highlands ProvincialWilliam Powi
Ialibu-Pangia OpenPeter O'Neill
Imbonggu OpenPila Niningi
Kagua-Erave OpenMaina Pano
Mendi OpenRaphael Tonpi
Nipa-Kutubu OpenBilly William M. Joseph

2006 state of emergency

On 1 August 2006, the government of Papua New Guinea declared a state of emergency in the country's Southern Highlands region. According to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, troops were deployed to restore 'law, order and good governance' in the region, following accusations of corruption, theft and misuse of government buildings at the hands of the regional government.[9]

As a region rich in energy resources, the Southern Highlands was at the centre of plans to construct a gas pipeline to pump natural gas to Queensland in north Australia. The project would have resulted in much needed revenue for Papua New Guinea, and as it was believed that the instability in the region could jeopardise the project, the national government decided to intervene by declaring a state of emergency. The move was supported by Parliament, although some criticism was leveled at the government for restricting press access to the region while the state of emergency was in force. The companies involved subsequently opted for the current PNG Gas project which has export facilities outside Port Moresby. This is operated by Esso Highlands, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, and is expected to begin production in 2014.


  1. "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  2. "PNG to create two new provinces", Sydney Morning Herald, July 15, 2009
  3. "PNG’S new province Hela, Jiwaka declared" Archived 2012-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, The National, 17 May 2012
  4. National Statistical Office of Papua New Guinea
  5. "Census Figures by Wards - Highlands Region". 2011 National Population and Housing Census: Ward Population Profile. Port Moresby: National Statistical Office, Papua New Guinea. 2014.
  6. "Final Figures". 2011 National Population and Housing Census: Ward Population Profile. Port Moresby: National Statistical Office, Papua New Guinea. 2014.
  7. May, R. J. "8. Decentralisation: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back". State and society in Papua New Guinea: the first twenty-five years. Australian National University. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  8. "Provinces". Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  9. "State of emergency in PNG region". BBC News. 2006-08-01.
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