Bob Tate Was ‘Patriot and Protector’ for PNG Forest Industry

20 years of service to timber communities

Wed 27 Mar 24


A tough fighter for the Papua New Guinea forest industry who punched well above his weight in the centre ring of politics – right up to the desk of the Prime Minister when needed – has died in Port Moresby, aged 70.

Robert (Bob) Tate, CEO of the PNG Forest Industries Association, passed away on March 19 at his home in the village of Koki after a short illness.

Born in Sydney, Bob Tate was praised by his many friends and colleagues in industry across PNG, Australia, and greater Oceana. They saw him as ”a patriot and protector” of forest communities and timber producers.

One of his last assignments in December was to take a delegation of forest sector stakeholders to confront PNG Prime Minister James Marape and members of the nationalist Pangu Party over serious issues “dragging down” both in-forest operations and wood processors.

The delegation called on the government to seriously consider the economic benefits to PNG from a quick return to pre-crisis levels of operations in the forest sector.

“The years 2022-23 have been a disaster, followed by restrictions by the PNG Forest Authority in an attempt to end all exporting activities,” Mr Tate told the writer just before Christmas.

“These measures are unnecessary and demonstrate the complete lack of understanding by the authority of the disastrous economic outlook facing the country.

“So far this year, we have seen a 30% fall in production compared to the same period last year, which is extremely concerning for the 4000 people who have lost their jobs.”

Bob Tate served the PNG Forest Industries Association for more than 20 years, a voice for industry representing 85% of the country’s forest sector, employing 10,000 people and providing infrastructure in rural areas, including health and education facilities, which otherwise would not exist.

The PNG forestry sector has moved from a group of small domestic processors in the 1950s to a large log export-oriented industry. 

More than 60% of PNG’s total land area (about 30 million ha) is covered by forests and owned by landowners.

About 10 million ha produces high-quality tropical hardwoods, which are suitable for forestry development. However, the forests are under pressure from small-scale and commercial agriculture, which may result in deforestation.

Papua New Guinea hosts the third largest expanse of tropical rainforest on the planet.

Mr Tate is survived by his partner Betty Oauke-Tate, his bother Allan and David, sister Christen and their extended families in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

A service, attended by many industry notables, including Kanawi Pouru, president of the PNG Forest Industries Association, and Chew Peng Heng, vice president, will take place at the Erima Funeral Home Chapel at Koki on Thursday.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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