The Kokoda Track Authority and other key PNG agencies accompanied Papua New Guinean and Australian defence personnel to inspect key Kokoda Track river crossings to identify a site for a new permanent bridge that will increase safety for local communities and trekkers.
The scoping team included Kokoda Track Authority chief executive Julius Wargirai, National Museum and Art Gallery director Dr Andrew Moutu, CEPA Hydrographer John Ari, and Colonel James Kidd – Head of Australian Defence Staff.
The party also included Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) and Australian Defence Force (ADF) engineers who surveyed four sites at crossings near villages at Agulogo, Templeton’s, Eora Creek and Efogi along the Kokoda Track.
The project is support by the Kokoda Track Authority, under the Kokoda Initiative, to ensure the Kokoda Track is well managed, improves the livelihoods of local communities and protects the rich cultural and military heritage of the region.
Julius Wargirai said the Kokoda Track is typically one of PNG’s top tourist destinations and saw a silver lining to the temporary closure forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re taking this opportunity to carry out important track maintenance and improvements,” he said.
“When trekkers are able to return to PNG, the Kokoda Track will be ready.”
Colonel Kidd said the Kokoda Track is a symbol of the enduring partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia.
“The strong relationship between PNG and Australia has its foundation in the bonds formed during World War II – on the Kokoda Track and in other parts of Papua New Guinea,” he stated.
“These connections are strengthened every day through the partnership between the PNGDF and the ADF, and the friendships formed by local people and visitors to the Kokoda Track.”
The project provides PNGDF and ADF personnel a field engineering course with local community engagement and will construct a bridge that is durable, sympathetic to local conditions and provides improved access, trade and commerce for remote village communities along the track.
The project promotes PNGDF engagement with Kokoda Track communities, local ownership of the completed works and an opportunity to transfer skills gained through the course further afield in PNG’s remote locations.
The project complements the Kokoda Track Authority and Kokoda Initiative’s annual track maintenance works and Owers’ Corner Road repairs, which were conducted with Australian Government support.
(Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew ‘Chika’ Tritton, ADF Works Advisor – Defence Cooperation Program with Lieutenant Livia Wrakonei, Design Officer – PNGDF Directorate of Engineers discussing bridge design and construction during the inspection)