By PATRICK TALU
AUSTRALIAN prime minister Kevin Rudd’s special envoy on Kokoda, Sandy Hollway, yesterday visited the southern end of the Kokoda Track to look at work underway on the Owers’ Corner Road.
Mr Hollway told Koiari villagers that it was an opportunity for him, as special envoy, to see first-hand the work that was being done to address safety issues along the track under the PNG and Australian government’s Kokoda safety package (KSP).
“The two governments are working together with local communities and the trekking industry to ensure that the Kokoda Track is safe as possible,” Mr Hollway said.
“While we know there will always be risks in this remote and rugged area, through KSP we’ve identified some key areas where safety can be improved such as urgent upgrades to secure sections of Owers’ Corner Road and repairs to nearby bridges.
“This focus will benefit local communities living along the track and thousand of tourists visiting this region, PNG’s premier tourism destination each year,” he said.
He pointed out that his visit was to progress discussion between the PNG and Australian governments on the joint understanding on the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges and the KSP.
Mr Hollway told reporters that a key area of this agreement was the Kokoda development programme, which is looking at improving livelihoods for track communities as well as an improvement in the health and education facilities along the track.
Chief executive officer of Kokoda Tracking Authority Rod Hillman alluded that safety of local people and trekkers is the first priority for any infrastructure, transport and development projects long the track.
“By fast-tracking priority projects, we will be able to deliver improved services to communities and ensure a safe trekking experience on the Kokoda Track.”
The safety package is implemented by both governments through KTA, civil aviation safety authorities, provincial and local level government and AusAID.
Mr Holway’s was accompanied to Owers’ Corner was accompanied by Australian High Commissioner Ian Kermish and his wife.