Profile: Engineer’s passion to improve access to power in Papua New Guinea
14 Oct 2015 by Business Advantage PNG
For more than 30 years, Finkewe Zurecnuoc has been a trailblazer for female engineers in Papua New Guinea. The PNG Power board member is now focusing on using her professional experience to help improve accessibility to power in remote areas.
As an engineer, Finkewe Zurecnuoc has witnessed a lot of significant developments in Papua New Guinea. More than 30 years ago, Zurecnuoc became PNG’s only female engineer when she graduated from the PNG University of Technology with a degree in electrical engineering.
Much of her career since then has focused on the mining industry, starting at the Ok Tedi mine in Western Province in 1984, the year after she graduated, and now today as a senior project manager with Kramer Ausenco.
Zurecnuoc recalls being part of the development of the Ok Tedi mine, as it became a major driver in PNG’s growing economy.
The place (Ok Tedi) literally changed in front of our eyes,’ Zurecnuoc told Business Advantage PNG. ‘What used to be just a construction camp became a town and numbers increased. When I first went up there the locals were running around in their traditional clothing. By the time I left, they were all in western clothing.’
Passion for power
After seeing the resources industry create positive development throughout the country, Zurecnuoc’s passion has shifted to helping improve the country’s power sector.
For more than 2 years, Zurecnuoc has also been a director at PNG Power, where she sits on the board as a female representative and for her technical expertise in the field.
Zurecnuoc believes there is potential to improve access to power in remote areas of PNG, such as towns like Finschhafen District in Morobe Province, where she originates from. She says Finschhafen District is a typical example of a place where power infrastructure is lacking.
‘I would like to see that power be made more reliable and accessible to the majority of the PNG population and not just the people living in the towns and cities,’ Zurecnuoc said.
‘I can enjoy it in Port Moresby or Lae but I would like to be able to make a change to help something happen for the people in my home, for them to see similar services, maybe not up to the standard of in the cities and towns, but enough to be sufficient for their needs and maintain their livelihoods.’
Zurecnuoc believes renewable energy, especially solar power, could provide future answers to the current lack of access to power.
She said PNG has an opportunity to develop a ‘clean energy’ sector to add to its future energy capacity, but only if capital investment could be secured.
‘I would like to see development of more power stations in PNG to generate electricity. I am in particular looking at green energy solutions, clean energy or renewable energy solutions to help our people,” she said.
Zurecnuoc welcomed the O’Neill Government’s commitment to introducing new initiatives to improving its power infrastructure and access to electricity in remote areas.
‘I think there needs to be the political will in the O’Neill Government to make sure power gets to the people,’ Zurecnuoc said.
‘Electricity allows economic development for our people. Even if a mother is out in the bush somewhere in Papua New Guinea, if we can provide power, we would be able to do so many things there-like run a small shop,’
No longer alone as a female engineer in PNG, Zurecnuoc has been pleased by how many women have progressed in the engineering profession in the country, and continues to make an effort herself to mentor younger engineers.
‘I tell people that when I first started as an engineer I was mentored by a male engineer. But now I mentor female and male engineers as well,” Zurecnuoc said.
In addition to her role at Kramer Ausenco, Zurecnuoc is a board member of the Institution of Engineers, the Professional Engineers Registration Board, and the Morobe Physical Planning Board.
Zurecnuoc’s career in mining has also included stints at Bougainville Copper, the Porgera gold mine, BHP Billiton’s offices in Australia and, more recently, with Kramer Ausenco at the Lihir Gold mine.