Kokoda villagers threaten to collect fees

National, Normal


TOURISM  Arts  and Culture Minister Charles Abel has called for patience and understanding from Nauro villagers along the Kokoda Track while the National Government negotiates an economic development package for them within the next six months.
Mr Abel, who is also Civil Aviation Minister, made the call during his walk on the Kokoda Track where he met with village communities along the track including locals at Nauro Village to hear their grievances and see first hand how developments on the popular tourism icon was affecting their livelihood.
Village leaders at Nauro told him they would  close off their section of the track and collect fees direct from tourists if  no Government assistance  forthcoming before the start of the new trek season in March 2010.
They said since the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments’ decision to block off the Kodu Mine project  in their area to protect the historical Kokoda Track early this year, there has been no basic services such as health centre, schools, water projects and roads from both governments.
Mr Abel assured them that he would talk  to Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu and other relevant ministers to come  up with an economic package for Nauro villagers within the next six months.
He said given that Nauro was situated in a remote and rugged area away from the other main villagers with which it makes up one council ward, naturally, it would miss out as most benefits go to bigger villages such as Manari, therefore, Nauro should be considered under a special award for economic development benefits.
Mr Abel also assured the villagers along the track that the PNG Government will pump in K10 million next year as counterpart funding to support AusAID delivery services on the Kokoda Track.
AusAID representative Troy Irvin, who was also in the minister’s delegation, said there were plans for a permanent double classroom for Nauro to be fully fitted with desks.
Mr Irvin also pointed out that it would cost more than K1 million per kilometre to build a road link from Port Moresby to the area and that is  very expensive, but both governments will assist.