TRC trail experts Chris Halstead and Artie Jacobson have recently finished a month in Papua New Guinea working with communities on the Kokoda Track. The unusually late wet season brought flooding and winds to the track washing away bridges and dropping large trees onto the track creating closures and a dangerous passage.

The priority projects were to ensure the Kokoda Track was open and in good condition for Anzac Day and the traditional peak time for trekking and to ensure the communities and in particularly local school children have safe access along the track.

A high number of trekkers seek an Anzac Day trekking experience with an anticipated 450 trekkers and support crews joining the Anzac Day commemorations at the important Isurava 1942 battlefield site. An estimated 3,500 trekkers are set to take on the 96 kilometre Track in the 2019 Kokoda trekking season.

Track conservation work undertaken during March and April 2019 focussed on priority river crossings, damaged or realigned sections of track (within the vicinity of the crossings) and clearing fallen trees to ensure the track is clear and open for trekking and in good condition for Anzac Day. Capacity development for Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) field operation staff was also an important priority during the delivery of the program.

The project was delivered through a partnership between KTA, the Kokoda Initiative and trail management experts from TRC. The work was undertaken through the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) with the support of the Australian Government through the Kokoda Initiative.

The projects were based on information received from the KTA, track communities and existing knowledge of track problems caused by high rainfall and floods. Track works addressed track conservation issues and focussed on providing a safe and well managed Kokoda Track which honours its wartime historical significance and protects and promotes its special values. The works ensured:

  • trekking experiences are maintained and enhanced through good track conservation works that support sustainable, safe and culturally sensitive trekking
  • benefit and opportunity is provided to landowners and track communities through employment and involvement which enriches their quality of life and values their land and culture
  • the track is protected and preserved, and the cultural and military heritage of the track is managed with authenticity.

What was achieved

Projects were undertaken in the mountain areas of Eora Creek, Alola, Abuari, Launumu and Templeton 1 and in the Brown River Valley and Brown River Swamp near Agulogo. The TRC trail experts were impressed by the bridge building skills, strength, sense of humour and pride of the local people from the track who by hand hauled very large logs across the forested landscape or down the rivers to construct the traditional log bridges.

The project delivered:

  • construction of 10 substantial log crossings with a focus on raising bridge heights above flood peaks
  • movement and placement of up to 100 large and small logs and rock and log supports to create improved river crossings
  • removal of 3 fallen logs from the track and one dangerous tree and realignment of damaged track and replacement with up to 300 metres of sustainable new track
  • engagement of 114 men and 30 women from track communities to undertake construction, support and track rehabilitation activities
  • payment of K32,410 ($13,500 AUD) to Kokoda Track communities through the log crossing and track works and via support workers
  • training and development for KTA Operations Managers and Rangers including project management and chainsaw training for five rangers with two qualifying as chainsaw operators
  • assessment of sustainable options for future river crossings

TRC are now developing a Track Operations Manual that will contribute to short and long-term planning for sustainable Kokoda Track field operations.

Image: One of 10 log crossings constructed by the highly skilled, strong, tough and proud local bridge builders at Templetons 1 on the Kokoda Track.  

Image: The boys from Kagi Village who built the crossing at Templeton’s 1

Image: The helicopter is landing near Mount Bellamy, the highest point on the Track where the team climbed for a pick up and return to Port Moresby.

Image: Agulogo with Chief Sobi and Ranger Elijah with Chris Halstead of TRC looking for the best site for the bridge over Agu River

Image: Completed Agu Bridge at Agulogo

Image: Habba Bridge Launamu to Naduri

Image: Launumu to Kagi Bridge

Image: Log Bridge Balance