Recognising an important place
The Kokoda Track has historical significance for people in Papua New Guinea and Australia and is a powerful symbol of the enduring relationship between the two countries. Increasing numbers of trekkers are experiencing the physically challenging 96-kilometre walk every year, making the Kokoda Track PNG's most popular land-based tourism attraction and an important source of national income.
The Owen Stanley Ranges, through which the Kokoda Track passes, is rich in natural resources. It is also home to thousands of unique plants and animals, making this historic place also one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Asia Pacific.
A complex challenge
As usage of the Track increases and environmental and development issues combine, the protection and management of the area presents a complex challenge, requiring careful management and cooperation at both the government and community level.
Trekkers on the Kokoda Track
Photo by Lauchlan McNicol
Working together for a better future
In 2008, the Australian and PNG governments signed a Joint Understanding to work together to protect the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges and improve the livelihoods of communities living along the Track.
This work is being delivered through the joint Kokoda Initiative.
Kokoda Development Program
Part of the Kokoda Initiative includes the Kokoda Development Program (KDP), delivered by AusAID in consultation with the Government of PNG and local communities. The aim of the KDP is to improve the lives of the people living along the Track corridor through assisting with access to basic services such as water, sanitation, health, education and transport.
The KDP has already completed the following activities: refurbishment of the Efogi health centre; an upgrade of the Track health radio network; provision of new curriculum materials in 22 schools; and flown teachers to remote villages for the new school year.
Over the next two years, the KDP will deliver:
- Improved water supply and toilets in health and education facilities along the Track, including training local people to install and maintain new toilets;
- Five refurbished village health posts and adequately stocked health facilities;
- Training to over 50 new Village Heath Volunteers and upgrading of all existing health workers' skills;
- Refurbishment of school buildings and provision of additional staff housing; and
- Training of additional teachers.
Sustainable Livelihoods Project
Under the Kokoda Initiative, the PNG and Australian governments will work with Track communities on the Sustainable Livelihoods Project.
Identifying potential economic benefit streams and improving the livelihoods of landowners and communities, including through tourism-related income generation, is an important objective of the PNG-Australia Joint Understanding on the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges.
In mid 2009, a specialist team visited Track communities and engaged with trek operators to identify existing and potential opportunities for livelihoods projects and to develop a concept for a rural micro-business program along the Track corridor. A number of opportunities were identified and this work has resulted in the development of a micro-business support program which will be piloted from early 2010.
For more information on the Sustainable Livelihoods Project, see:
Kokoda Memorial at Isuvara on Kokoda Track
Photo by Lauchlan McNicol
Caring for the Kokoda Track
Another element of the Kokoda Initiative is to assist with Track protection and management. The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), reformed in 2008, has responsibility for management of the Track including administering trekking permits, coordinating activities on the Track, and distributing funds to communities. The aim of the Authority is to provide a sustainable future for the Track, the trekking industry, and local communities by preserving the Track's historic values, its natural environment and maintaining and improving its special qualities for trekkers.
The Authority is working with stakeholders to build Kokoda Track tourism into a world- class trekking experience and to ensure that community development and trekking industry-related activities are well coordinated.
KTA achievements and plans
Code of Conduct - the KTA Management Committee recently endorsed a Kokoda trekking industry Code of Conduct, to minimise adverse impacts and maximise benefits for local people. Plans are in-train to address urgent infrastructure needs such as installing toilets and building emergency river crossings and to implement a five-year Track management plan.
Payments to communities - the KTA announced in mid 2009 that for the first time, it has distributed funding from trekking fees to Track communities. Communities will continue to receive funding every quarter.
Improving safety on the Track
The Australian and Papua New Guinean governments are working together to implement a range of safety projects along the Kokoda Track. This includes a major upgrade of the Owers Corner Road, repairs to other local roads and bridges, safety enhancements at airstrips, improvements to radio communications, assessments of health issues and subsidised first aid training.
The two governments have committed $4.9 million in funding for these important infrastructure and safety projects, which will benefit local communities and trekkers.
- Find out more about the Kokoda Track Safety Package
Looking after water catchments
Rainfall on the Owen Stanley Ranges feeds into the Brown River, the main water supply for Port Moresby's 255,000 residents. Improving sanitation along the Track and strengthening environmental control of the catchments will ensure this important water supply remains viable into the future.
Maximising potential forest carbon benefits
The Owen Stanley Ranges and surrounding areas could provide significant income for PNG with the introduction of a carbon trading system, under which the preservation of forests will earn carbon credits. Ensuring effective protection measures are in place to manage these forests is the first step towards unlocking new income opportunities in a carbon trading world.
Building international recognition for the Owen Stanley Ranges
The Owen Stanley Ranges and Kokoda Track were submitted by the Government of PNG for tentative World Heritage listing in 2006. This tentative listing is based on the outstanding biodiversity and cultural values of the area.
The Australian Government has been invited by the Government of PNG to provide technical assistance to support a feasibility study for a possible World Heritage nomination of the Owen Stanley Ranges area.
Sharing knowledge and resources
The Kokoda Initiative partnership is ensuring the transfer of knowledge between PNG and Australian government agencies. Staff exchanges are currently underway in strategic management and capacity building in a range of areas such as GIS mapping, catchment and protected area management and land use planning.
For further information on the Kokoda Initiative please contact:
International Projects - Heritage Division
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Phone: 02 6274 1111