Australian Government conservation efforts around the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea have extended beyond strictly military preservation.
The wide-ranging Kokoda Initiative, outlined during senate estimates hearings, has won praise from Queensland Senator James McGrath, who is a big supporter of programs that conserve military history.
“Kokoda in World War II delivered so much to the Australian psyche, and it’s right that the region and its people are now being assisted in terms of health, education and their economy,” Senator McGrath said.
“The practical initiatives are helping keep the Kokoda legend alive by offering a wide range of support and development measures to the communities living along the track.”
During senate estimates questioning from Senator McGrath, the Department of Environment outlined initiatives that aim to improve local communities’ lifestyles and capacity for income, and also support biodiversity conservation.
“A large part of the program is focussed on improving the health and wellbeing, education, living conditions of people living along the Kokoda Track,”Stephen Oxley, of the Department of Environment, told the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee hearing.
“And we’ve seen physical infrastructure – medical centres, schools and so forth – built along the track to the real benefit of the communities along the Kokoda Track.”
Mr Oxley added the Department was working with PNG’s Kokoda Track Authority and PNG’s Environment Department, to ensure the integrity of the track itself and its communities – it includes small scale agriculture that can provide food to Australian Kokoda pilgrims.
“To make sure the facilities and services available to the trekking community are up to scratch and give them a memorable experience in good ways,” Mr Oxley said.
“To actually improve the level of income the track communities can earn from the track.”
The Department is also helping to map the diversity on Owen Stanley Ranges and Brown Mountain.
“This is foundational work to understand the he diversity of species, plants, animals, insects and so on that are found in the Kokoda Track region, as one of the foundation supporting the PNG government’s aspirations to one day see this amazing place included on the World Heritage List,” Mr Oxley said.
Funds for the initiatives are provided to the Environment Department from the Department of Foreign Affairs.