Over the last week the Urban Oceania Reading Group came together to discuss an article by Scheyven et al. (2019) “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific”. We were motivated to discuss and write about this article because our conversations on other academic articles often return to how customary land ownership interacts with local development. Scheyvens et al. (2019) articulates narratives of indigenous entrepreneurs who are able to successfully work within the context of customary land tenure to produce business that are a) economically profitable and b) beneficial for the surrounding local community. Scheyvens et al. (2019) with its focus on local voice is uniquely positioned within the customary land tenure / development debate to consider how customary tenure can be worked with specifically for the betterment of local communities in Oceania. In this article we continue to review how Scheyvens et al. (2019) address this topic adding in our own personal academic knowledge and perspectives.
Living in an informal settlement is common in Oceania. High rates of rural-urban migration and poor housing policy forces many to live on customary land on the peripheries of the Oceanic city. There is a great variance in how life is experienced within informal settlements in Oceania, however, informal settlement residents across the region have experienced some form of infrastructural exclusion in some form. What we mean by infrastructural exclusion in informal settlements is that one or more of the formal infrastructural services like water, electricity, garbage disposal, access to education and healthcare, are not provided to residents by their national governments. Anthropologists have begun to argue that denial to infrastructural services is akin to a denial of urban citizenship (Ranganathan, 2014; Rodgers & O’Neill, 2012; Von Schnitzler, 2008). Here we review the latest addition to this literature by Rooney (2021) and her article We Want Development”: Land and Water (Dis) connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea.