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Friday, March 30, 2012

Kokoda 70 Years On – tourism aids community development

Project 737 is an Air Niugini initiative that will see a Boeing 737 carry special livery commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Kokoda.

Christmas Day, 1942. An Australian soldier,
George "Dick" Whittington, is aided by Papuan orderly
Raphael Oimbari, at the Battle of Buna-Gona.
Whittington died in February 1943 from the
effects of bush typhus, this little-known killer of
many Allied and Japanese soldiers
in the Pacific. (Picture by George Silk.)
Last night the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (PNG TPA) held an event in Sydney to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign. The event opened this year’s anniversary trekking season and highlighted the advancements and community developments that have occurred along the track as a result of the legacy of the Campaign and the special relationship between the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and the Australian Diggers.

Ruben Maleva, Chairman of the Kokoda Track Authority, reminded Australians of the
special bond forged between the countries 70th years ago and encouraged people to trek Kokoda as the tourism revenue is a key contributor to development for the communities in the region.

“Since Australian soldiers left PNG, an estimated 30,000 Australians have returned to trek Kokoda and this has made a huge impact to the local communities aiding development with increased education and health services, creating jobs for porters, guides and guesthouse operators and other small businesses. Many of the local people have built friendships and renewed bonds through tourism development,” Mr Maleva stated.

Recent research has estimated that trekkers bring close to a few million Australian dollars a year to the Kokoda area, over time this will add up to significantly more than other, shorter term industries and a much higher proportion of it finds its way directly to the communities.

Since 2008 there has been significant investment into improving the Kokoda track and creating a sustainable region and tourism product that will continue to benefit local communities. This work has been led by the Kokoda Initiative, a joint partnership between the PNG and Australian government.

The Kokoda Initiative works with a number of key partners in PNG to implement sustainable development programs in the region, including; the Department of Environment and Conservation, Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), AusAID Kokoda Development Programme and the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.

Through the Kokoda Track Authority, trekking fees have been implemented and all tour operators must be licensed. Over 25% of the trekking fees go back into the local community and contribute to improving the development of local communities along the Track.

Revenue from trekking permits has given over AUD$270,000 to the local communities since 2009 and over 1,000 local people from the surrounding region have jobs thanks to tourism along the Kokoda Track.

This week the Kokoda Initiative has launched a documentary, “One Journey, Many stories”, produced by Papua New Guinea film makers Yumi Piksa from the University of Goroka. This film is about the many people involved in the Kokoda Initiative who are working together to achieve the same vision of sustainable development in the region. Health workers, school teachers, rangers and community leaders are interviewed and share their stories about the work being delivered in the region. The short film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/DeptEnvironment/featured

There are a number of key events to mark the anniversary this year and the Kokoda Track Authority is holding a number of events for local communities to commemorate significant dates of the campaign. These events will kick off on July 29 with an event at Sogeri where the Kokoda campaign started 70 years ago. There will also be events at Isurava village, Brigade Hill, Iorabaiwa village, Eora Creek and an event in Kokoda on November 2 to celebrate Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels Day.

Air Niugini will also be transforming one of its Boeing 737s this year into a Kokoda ‘flying billboard’ with a map of the Owen Stanley Ranges, where the Kokoda campaign was fought, emblazoned on the side of the aircraft to mark the important anniversary.

The aircraft will create unprecedented awareness for Papua New Guinea and Kokoda as it travels to Sydney, Brisbane and other ports within the Asia- Pacific region and it is expected to be launched later this year.

Along with giving Australians a chance to reflect on this important part of our shared history, the PNG TPA hope that this anniversary will lead to more Australians being inspired to do
the trek and in turn contribute to the communities along it.

www.papuanewguinea.travel || www.kokodatrackauthority.org

For further information about the Kokoda Initiative go to: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/international-projects/kokoda/kokoda-initiative.html

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