Most accountants are stereotyped as charmless individuals in grey suits. But Greg Nairn shatters this long standing image. Wearing an open-necked shirt and a relaxed smile, the charismatic Australian’s conversation is so animated it is surprising he did not opt for a career in radio or television.
But Greg, the managing partner of Price Waterhouse in Port Moresby, has no regrets. A senior position in one of the world’s leading accountancy firms is a job he would not swap for the world. The fact he has been posted in Papua New Guinea for the last year has served to add fresh challenges and a new edge of excitement to his work.
“When I was first told I was coming to Papua New Guinea I was in a state of disbelief,” he admitted. “Apart from postings in Jakarta and Wellington I had always lived in Australia. At first I was rather wary about being posted to Port Moresby but now I am simply grateful I have had the chance to experience such a unique city.
“In a sense, accountancy is still in its infancy here. It gives international firms like Price Waterhouse the opportunity to pass on their experience and help the profession in Papua New Guinea to develop and modernise. There is still room for innovation and fresh approaches here, as opposed to countries like Australia where accountancy is already heavily regulated.” Price Waterhouse has offices dotted all over the world and was the second international accountancy firm to establish itself in Papua New Guinea. The tiny, initial Price Waterhouse office, set up in 1969, pales in comparison to the new, modern headquarters at Pacific Place in Moresby’s central business district.
The company’s presence in Papua New Guinea is principally to service its international clients: New Britain Palm Oil Development Company, Chevron Niugini, Indosuez Bank, Shell PNG and Remington Pitney Bowes. The firm has also been instrumental in co-ordinating some major local projects. Ok Tedi, which is based in the Highlands, is one of the largest copper/gold mines in the world. Price Waterhouse were involved with it right from the start, when the idea to develop the mine was sparked over 10 years ago.
“Considering 90 percent of Papua New Guinea is inaccessible by normal means I think the excavation of Ok Tedi mine is a major achievement,” said Greg. “We are very proud that we had confidence in the project and gave it our full support and expertise. It will, hopefully, pave the way for further mining ventures in the region.”
Greg considers Price Waterhouse’s principal role in benefiting Papua New Guinea is the recruitment and training of local staff. Of the 23 staff employed in the Port Moresby office, 15 are nationals. Many of them will be trained in-house and then have the opportunity to transfer to Australia or one of the other Asian offices. This helps them to gain valuable international experience which they can put into practice when they return to Papua New Guinea.
“I still have over three years of my contract to run in Papua New Guinea,” said Greg. “The thing I would most like to achieve during my time here is to successfully train the national staff. Seeing them gain in confidence and experience would make me feel I have made a small contribution to this country.”
It is unlikely Price Waterhouse will spread its wings into other parts of Papua New Guinea. With its multi-functional office in Port Moresby which deals with everything from tax planning to business consultancy, there is little need for other branches.
Greg accepts Papua New Guinea has its faults. He feels that haphazard infrastructure means potentially money-spinning ventures in mining and forestry sometimes never get off the ground. He thinks the tourism industry needs a serious kickstart before it reaches its full potential. But he sees Papua New Guinea as a country on the verge of a fresh dawn – about to experience an auspicious and exciting new cycle.