In the late 1960s, Harold Brookfield and Doreen Hart were 'startled' by the order of magnitude differences in incomes from village cash cropping in different parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This paper traces these differences, back into a pre-colonial past and forward to the present and concludes, as Brookfield did in the 1960s, that severe environmental constraints, rather than market forces, are the primary cause of the pattern of spatial inequalities observable in PNG. Brookfield noted the existence of an 'acute dilemma' in 1960s development funding: should funds be invested where the returns will be highest, or where the need is greatest. This dilemma is as acute today as it was then. However, in the meantime, people from poor places are moving to better-off places, seeking access to markets for their produce and health and education services for their families.