Papua New Guinea

Kokoda Initiative

The Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea has historical significance for the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia as the site of some of the fiercest battles between Japanese and Australian Forces in World War II. It is a powerful symbol of the goodwill and enduring relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The track is popular for trekkers who want to experience the physically challenging 96-kilometre walk, attracting over 3,000 trekkers each year.

In 2008, the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments signed a joint agreement to work together to protect and manage the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges, and improve the livelihoods of communities living along the Track. This is known as the Kokoda Initiative. The Second Joint Understanding (2010-2015) has continued this work.   

In September 2015, the Papua New Guinea and Australian Prime Ministers signed the Papua New Guinea-Australia Joint Declaration on the Preservation of the Kokoda Track Region. This extends the Kokoda Initiative beyond 2015 through an enduring partnership which recognises the significance of the Kokoda Track, its people, and the environment.  

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Raphael Oimbari leading Australian Soldier, Private George ‘Dick’ Whittington to a field hospital (1942). Photo: George Silk

Working together – 1942 and now

The Kokoda Track campaign was among Australia’s most significant campaigns of World War II.  During the second half of 1942 Australian troops took part in a series of punishing military actions as they tried to stop the Japanese advancing across the Owen Stanley Ranges towards Port Moresby. If they became ill or were wounded, the Australians relied on help from local Papuan civilians who carried them on stretchers or guided them through the rugged country that the Track runs through.

Their dedication and courage saved the lives of many men, and today the Track remains a symbol of the lasting bond of friendship that exists between the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

From 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, will lead Australia’s involvement in the Kokoda Initiative. It will work with the Papua New Guinean Conservation and Environment Protection Authority to deliver the Kokoda Initiative. The Australian Department of the Environment will continue to provide advice on environmental policies for management of the Kokoda Track region. The Kokoda Initiative Committee (a Committee established by the Government of Papua New Guinea) oversees implementation of the Initiative in Papua New Guinea, supported by a technical working group. Activities are carried out with many partners, including the Oro and Central Provincial Administrations, district and local level governments, local communities, the Kokoda Track Authority, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, and tour operators.

Photo:Volker Scholz.

Protecting the special values of the Kokoda region

The Kokoda Track passes through the Owen Stanley Ranges, which are rich in natural resources. The ranges are home to thousands of unique plants and animals, making them one of the most biologically diverse and important areas in the Asia Pacific. There are also many cultural sites and artefacts which show people’s long relationship with this land, such as old village sites, spirit places, cemeteries and archaeological sites. The Brown River catchment, located within the Owen Stanley Ranges, has been identified as a potential source of clean water and energy for Port Moresby.

High use of the Track by trekkers and other potential land uses such as mining and forestry could put pressure on the conservation of these special values. Through the Kokoda Initiative, the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments are working together to promote sustainable development of this area and protect its important natural, cultural and military heritage values.

Supporting local communities along the track

The track passes through lands of the Koiari people in Central Province, and the Orokaiva people in Oro Province. Many big and small villages are located along or near the track.

Guesthouse certification. Photo: KTA.

The Kokoda Development Program is working to improve health and education services for local communities. Activities have included building community health centres, upgrading the health radio network, providing community-based health training, building classrooms, providing new curriculum materials in schools and supporting teacher training. This program is run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of the Kokoda Initiative, and is delivered cooperatively with non-government organisations who are active in the region.

A small livelihoods project is also being run to help local communities set up micro-businesses and generate income from tourism, in a way that adds to the trekking experience. Different activities have been trialled, such as guesthouse certification training, basic physiotherapy training, supplying toilet pots, building a drying room at a local school, and community-based mentors.

River crossing, Kokoda Track. Photo: Lachlan McNicol.

Managing the Kokoda Track

Keeping the Kokoda Track safe and open for trekking is the job of the PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA). The Authority works with local communities and tour operators to maintain the track and facilities; build bridges; maintain the Kokoda airstrip, other landing sites for air transport and the main access road from Port Moresby (Owers’ Corner Road); and keep the Kokoda Track radio system running. Local rangers are employed to work with local communities to maintain the track and manage the trekking industry. The KTA also regulates the trekking industry by issuing licences to tour operators and permits for trekkers, and liaising with local landowners.

Want to find out about trekking the Kokoda Track?

Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority 
For general information about trekking.

Kokoda Track Authority 
For information about planning your walk, trekking permits and safety.

See also

"The track" - A historical desktop study of the Kokoda Track
The Track was commissioned as a reference document by the Department to assess the wartime routes of the Kokoda Track and to assist the Department's work under the Kokoda Initiative.

Kokoda Education Resource - Department of Veterans' Affairs
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) developed an education resource titled 'Kokoda: Exploring the Second World War campaign in Papua New Guinea'.

For more information

For more information please contact the Department of the Environment