Goroka is the administrative headquarters for the Eastern Highlands Province and it is located on the Okuk Highlands Highway. Goroka is a thriving busy city with its formal sector enjoying a wide range of urban services and amenities. The city attracts overseas and local tourists to its world re-known Goroka Show and Goroka Coffee Festival. Goroka City like other Melanesian cities exhibits a common feature of formally laid out modern patterns of urban development that are surrounded by informal and uncontrolled informal settlements development.


Established by the colonial administration in 1939, the town had become the administrative and commercial center of the highlands by the mid- 1940s. Australians established coffee plantations in surrounding regions in the 1950s. The first stages of the Highlands Highway linked Goroka to Lae in the 1950s, but until well into the 1960s it remained more economical to bring supplies in, and send coffee out, by air to Madang. Expansion in the 1960s and 1970s included the establishment of the headquarters of a number of commercial enterprises and scientific and educational institutions.


Goroka is the capital city of the major coffee producing region in the country. The plantation sector contributes significantly to the city’s economy. Market gardening, livestock and in land fishing also provide income opportunity for the local population. Honey production is another emerging business opportunity for the local people.

Due to its strategic location, the city serves as the major distribution point for goods and freight destined to the vast highlands region.

As the regional city, Goroka is the economic hub of the growing economic development and investment in the mining sector in the highlands region. Major banking and insurance offices, legal offices, and international donor offices are located in Goroka. The city also hosts major tertiary and research institutions that contribute to the economy of the city. Both the public and institutional sector are major employment sources for the city. The city hosts a major regional sporting facility that contributes to the local economy.

The Tourism and hospitality industry has gradually developed and now provide an excellent market for international tourism. The bi-annual Goroka Cultural Show attracts both local and overseas tourists. The annual Goroka Coffee Festival is another event that attracts both international tourists and coffee buyers.

The city has a weak manufacturing base, but the service industries in transport and freight, fuel and cargo distribution, and building and construction sector add significant input to the local economy. In the commercial sector, the city hosts some of the major supermarkets, wholesale and retailing shops. This sector is another major employment sources for the city. The average household income for the city is estimated at USD 150 which is lower than the national average of USD 250. On an average, those employed subsist on a household income of USD 20-30 daily to sustain livelihood for their families.

Urban Safety

The Law and Order situation in Goroka has always been a serious concern for both the National and Provincial Government. Rising juvenile delinquency and serious crimes such as armed robbery and use of illicit drugs is common in the city. The increase in crime in Goroka has been partly due to migration of people into urban centres from rural areas and other provinces seeking employment and economic opportunities. Often the communities from informal (squatter) settlements are targeted in the criminal activities.

The poor street lighting in the city and particularly in residential and public areas contribute to lawlessness, decline in public safety and frequent robberies in business premises.

The Law and Order situation not only threatens personal safety and property but has wider repercussions on the local economy, investment and tourism industry. Some business have re-located to other provinces due to the escalating crime in Goroka.

Policing in Goroka has always been challenging for the members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. Limited logistical resources, man power and poor housing conditions all contribute to lack of effective performance of the police in the city. Recruitment of reserve constabularies have minimized some problems, however there is need for a holistic approach from all key stakeholders, including politicians, to address the escalating crime.

The increase in crime in Goroka has necessitated the establishment of the Eastern Highlands Provincial Rehabilitation Committee in 1981. This committee comprises of the Police Department, the Correctional
Institutional Services (CIS), the Judiciary, and the Courts. Goroka City requires broader support and interventions to curtail the current lawlessness. Donor interventions in urban youth programmes similar to the ‘Yumi Lukkaut Moresby’ initiative is needed in Goroka.

Public Transport

Buses and open back utilities are common forms of public transport in Goroka. These are commonly known as PMV’s (Public Motor Vehicles) which are usually owned by individual operators. Privately owned vehicles, cars and motor cycles make up 30% of transportation, while majority of the population walk daily to their place of work.

Most traffic accidents are alcohol related, as a result of negligence or due to poor road conditions. In the interest of public safety, there is a need to regulate all vehicles in the town.

Sources of Energy

The Papua New Guinea Power is responsible for providing electricity in the city. Majority of the people living in the informal settlements and the peri-urban areas do not have access to electricity. Most households rely on kerosene or firewood for cooking. Paraffin lamps, tin lamps, batteries and candles are the main source of lighting.


The city has a provincial hospital that serves the eight districts in the province and the highlands regions. While middle and high income groups rely on private clinics, the poorer sections of the population rely on substandard health facilities. High cost of medical care and insufficient drugs exacerbate the existing health conditions.

The common types of diseases in Goroka are malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, waterborne illnesses, and diarrhoea. HIV/AIDS is generally attributed to poverty. Not everyone has access to health care and to meet the growing demand for health care services, the city needs more health clinics and mobile clinics to ensure that everyone has access to health care. Public awareness and education programmes on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ways to prevent common diseases is also needed in the city.


Goroka has an adult literacy rate of 55% which is low compared to the national average of 85%. Only 20% of the urban poor have attained secondary education. The city has seven primary schools but only one secondary school and a private grammar school that enrolls students from grade nine to 12. The existing educational facilities are inadequate for the growing population of the city.

There is one university, two distance-learning colleges and few privately run schools and commercial colleges in the town. There are inequalities in the quality of education standards and facilities between government-run
and private schools. There are also disparities in educational opportunities between boys and girls and girls are less likely to complete primary education and advance to secondary school.

There is need to upgrade the existing educational facilities and improve access to education for the poor by establishing more government-run primary and secondary schools.

Last Updated: October 4, 2017

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