CULTURE and Tourism Minister Charles Abel completed the Kokoda Trail walk in 10 days making him the first PNG Government minister to do so.
Arriving at Owen’s Corner yesterday, Mr Abel said he now had a better understanding of the trek by talking to people on the way, recognising its importance and the needs there.
He also noted that the people did not know much about the projects put in place by the PNG and the Australian governments.
Mr Abel said that in 1993, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding that committed each government to equal amounts to develop infrastructure projects along the trail to bring benefits to the area.
The projects included aid posts, classrooms, water supplies, roads, a war museum, guest houses and a hospital at Kokoda.
In 1994, the Government of Papua New Guinea selected the National Cultural Commission as the most appropriate Government agency to manage the funds for the area appropriated from the national budget and to establish and chair the Kokoda Trail Development projects committee.
He announced that the Kokoda Track Authority would take over the role from the NCC.
The NCC has been put in a questionable doubt by the minister who was frustrated over the very long delay the NCC has taken in implementing projects funded through them, and furthermore, commended the KTA for their notable efforts in bringing development in the area.
Mr Abel also questioned the NCC to resolve the K1.5 million given to them by the National Government for projects along the track.
However, the minister was glad to see that some of the money, K351,000, was used to set up the rural lock-up, police station and camping facilities at Owens’ Corner.
His arrival was timely, as he officiated in the opening of these facilities along with the Australian High Commissioner Chris Moraitis.
Mr Moraitis stated that the Australian government and its people found a special place in their hearts for Kokoda and would continue to improve facilities and services in the area.
Mr Abel’s walk raised K50,000 which would be spent on health services to Naoro and Kokoda equally.
The minister also stated that he was looking to make the walk an annual event and is looking forward to next year.
This year, the Australian government has allocated A$14.9 million (K34.4 million) and has also added A$1.8 million (K4.1 million) for safety projects, while the PNG Government has allocated K10million for developmental projects for next year.