Located in the pristine waters of The Coral Sea, the Conflict Islands comprise of 21
untouched islands and boast the most extensive biodiversity and coral reefs in the world.



Why buying an island in PNG might be a smart business move

January 13th , 2014

The diving in PNG’s Conflict Islands is ‘extraordinary’

Eclectic collectors and eco-tourism entrepreneurs from around the world will be targeted in the sales campaign for 21 pristine islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Australian-born, London-based entrepreneur Ian Gowrie-Smith bought the islands in 2003, after first visiting them in 1996.

The Conflict Islands were so named after their 1886 discovery by naval ­survey ship The Conflict.

Mr Gowrie-Smith has developed a resort on the third-largest island, Panasesa, which has a 650-metre runway – which he said could accom­modate most private jets, after a leisurely four-hour flight from Sydney. The largest island, Irai, has 7000 metres of beachfront land and capacity for a 3000-metre jet runway.

Island ownership is at the extreme end of exclusive property. Most islands are under leaseholds, about 5 per cent are available on a freehold title. Island ownership sounds exorbitant but may come in cheaper than a lot of Sydney’s waterfront property.

Gowrie-Smith said he was open to offers and ideas – he is just as in­terested in what buyers intend for the atoll as the prices they are willing to pay. The collection was valued at $US25 million about 10 years ago.

If the right joint-venture partner puts a hand up, he would enjoy exploring conservation opportunities. Ideally, he hopes to find like-minded investors keen to preserve its diverse ecology while opening up tourism opportunities.

“I’m in no hurry to sell. I don’t need to sell them, I feel it is time to explore the islands’ full ­potential. The diving there is extra­ordinary; there is nowhere else like it in the world,” he says.

Gowrie-Smith said the Conflict Islands were the only known freehold islands available in Papua New Guinea. The islands are able to be owned by non-PNG citizens through company structures and the 21 islands are divided into nine PNG companies.

Owning an island is a popular asset for rich people, either as a private getaway or as a tourism investment. Island owners include Leonardo ­DiCaprio, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Richard Branson, Larry Ellisson and locally the likes of Peter Bond, Bob Oatley, Chris Morris and Clive Palmer.