Pidiwin Tau-Vali PNG Consul General, Australia, Jade Griffiths-Shaw, Steve Marshall TVNZ, Ruben Maleva Chairman at Kokoda Track Authority, Lendy Noel Kokoda Track Authority Ranger
James McCormack, Chris Stevens Co-Director Village Huts, Dr Genevieve Nelson Executive Director Kokoda Track Foundation Ltd, Pam Christie Co-Director Village Huts.
Leith Isaac Marketing Manager PNG TPA, Chris Stevens Co-Director Village Huts, Sarah Anderson Managing Director PNG TPA Aus/NZ, Ruben Maleva Chairman at Kokoda Track Authority (These were the presenters on the night)
Over 3,000 trekkers are expected to embark on the Kokoda trek this year as the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority promotes the 70th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign with commemorative treks being run by many of the tour operators along the track.
Last week the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (PNG TPA) held an event in Sydney, marking this special Anniversary and the start of the trekking season. The evening highlighted the community developments that have occurred along the track due to the Campaign legacy and the positive, special relationship between the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and the Australian Diggers.
Recent research estimates each year trekkers visiting the Kokoda area have contributed into the millions of Australian Dollars to the investment of improving the Kokoda track. Creating a sustainable region and tourism product, this invaluable income will continue to benefit local communities, led by the Kokoda Initiative, a joint partnership between the PNG and Australian government.
Reminding Australians of the special bond forged between the countries 70 years ago, Chairman of the Kokoda Track Authority Ruben Maleva, encouraged people to trek Kokoda. An estimated 30,000 Australians have returned to trek Kokoda since Australian soldiers left PNG.
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, Mr Maleva said.
On top of helping the community, Mr Maleva concluded by pointing out Many of the local people have built friendships and renewed bonds through tourism development.
Working with a number of key partners in PNG, the Kokoda Initiatives aim is 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, Over 25% of the trekking fees that have been implemented on the track go back into the local community and contribute to improving the development of local communities along the Track. Since 2009, revenue from these fees has given over AUD$270,000 to the local communities, along with over 1,000 local people from the surrounding region gaining jobs thanks to tourism along the Kokoda Track.
A documentary titled One Journey, Many stories, produced by Papua New Guinea film makers Yumi Piksa from the University of Goroka, was launched this week by the Kokoda Initiative.
This film shows the many people, including health workers, school teachers, rangers and community leaders who are all involved in the Kokoda Initiative and working to achieve the vision of sustainable development in the region. The short film can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/DeptEnvironment/featured
Other key events to mark the 70th anniversary this year include a number of events for local communities to commemorate significant dates of the campaign. An event at Sogeri where the Kokoda campaign started 70 years ago will kick off these events on 29 July. 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 creating unprecedented awareness for Papua New Guinea and Kokoda as it travels to Sydney. The transformed Boeing 737s will become a Kokoda flying billboard, displaying on the side of the aircraft a map of the Owen Stanley Ranges, where the Kokoda campaign was fought.
This years anniversary not only gives Australians a chance to reflect on this important part of the two countrys shared history, but the PNG TPA hopes it will lead to more Australians being inspired to do
the trek and in turn contribute to the communities along it.
Anne Morris from Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority told e-Travel Blackboard that over the years a range of well known personalities have proven that trekking Kokoda is something that all Australians can aspire to.
Politicians including Kevin Rudd, Joe Hockey and Bronwyn Bishop, beauties like Caroline Pemberton (Miss Australian 2007) and the amazing Kurt Fernly who completed the 96Km trek without the use of his legs, have all conquered the trek.
In 2011 a group of 25 young Australian soldiers who had been injured serving in Afghanistan, undertook a commemorative expedition of the Kokoda Track called RSL Soldiers of Kokoda as part of their rehabilitation process and another group will undertake the trek this July. Also sports teams such as the Hawthorne Hawks use the Kokoda Track to help team building.
Are you going to be one of the Australians to mark the anniversary by embarking on the trek also?
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: K.W