AUSTRALIANS’ intending to conquer the intimidating and arduous Kokoda Track must ensure they are fit and healthy to avoid injury or death, Australia’s parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs Duncan Kerr warned last week.
“The Kokoda trail is tough and was life threatening during the war and it still is, so trekkers must be wary of the risks involved,” Mr Kerr said.
His caution came following the death of two Australians on the track, in the span of one week, along the famous World War Two track. The two deaths take the toll to four to date.
Mr Kerr indicated that despite concerns raised for trekking firms and tourism agencies to make the trail safer for trekkers through improved facilities and measures, the primary responsibility lies with the trekker.
“Trekkers must really consider their health and well-being, it’s a simple rule of being fit and healthy,” he said.
He considered the untimely death of the two Australians as a stern warning to future trekkers not to take the 96km trail lightly by ensuring they have proper medical checks and that they physically prepare for it.
Mr Kerr raised the flag last Wednesday during a press meet after spending a week in PNG to discuss the purpose of his visit.
When posed with the question on the plans to have the Australian Federal Police back in PNG again, Mr Kerr said it was entirely up to the Government to decide as Australia would only recommend and provide support.
He noted that the law and justice sector was a huge success and that Australia would continue to support PNG on that front and said he had had talks with Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to try and foster some changes.
“I met with the Chief Justice and there is opportunity for greater exchange between our systems,” he said.
In regards to PNG’s look north policy, he said it was up to PNG to decide as a sovereign nation.
“We do recognise China’s presence in the region and we welcome it,” he said.
Mr Kerr’s visit was to meet with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and other key people to discuss bilateral relations and other pressing issues relating to Australia and Papua New Guinea.
It is understood some of the talks included security and strategic relations, tourism, health and other issues Australia is providing support via its aid agency AusAID.
While in PNG, Mr Kerr also visited Alotau, Daru and Tabubil.