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decision pending rudds visit

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    Trekkers on Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track will inject A$15 million into the local economy in 2008 but leave behind 10 tonnes of human feces, an Australian politician and tour operator has warned.

    Charlie Lynn, an MP in the New South Wales state Parliament and owner of Sydney-based trekking company Adventure Kokoda, said the situation is leading to further degradation of the historical track and warranted immediate intervention by the Rudd government.

    “The 2008 trekking season will commence within 60 days – more than 6000 trekkers will trek Kokoda this year – this will generate around $A15 million dollars into the PNG economy and 10 tonnes of human crap on the track. There is not a single environmental toilet in place – or planned – to cater for this inevitable carpet bombing!” he said in his bimonthly publication Adventure Kokoda Niusleta.

    Lynn added that Canberra should not continue to turn a blind eye to Kokoda and consult the PNG government on the possibility of setting up an interim management authority for the 96km track. Issues the interim body could address include plans by Australian mining company, Frontier Resources Ltd, to mine the area.

    “Canberra can no longer avoid its responsibility on this issue. Somebody has to take a pen and write out a check for an interim management body post-haste. Part of the responsibilities of the interim management body would be to address the impact of the Mt. Bini mine proposal on the Kokoda Trail. This should include the concerns expressed by (Rabaul MP and Attorney General) Dr. Allan Marat, chairman of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission in PNG, in regard to the lack of environmental safeguards of foreign mining companies,” Lynn added.

    According to the NSW state MP, further delays by both the Australian and PNG governments to address problems at Kokoda would be the final blow to attempts to development the track as a sustainable eco-tourism industry.

    “Any further procrastination will surely kill it as trekkers, miners, landowners, clan leaders, do-gooders and carpetbaggers clash over the spoils of customary heritage land containing blood, bone and gold,” he added.

    Kokoda is expected to feature prominently in discussions next month between Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his Australian colleague Kevin Rudd, when the latter makes his first state visit to PNG as Prime Minister.

    The PNG Mining Advisory Council has deferred the renewal of an exploration lease to Frontier pending the outcome of those talks, though PNG Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Sam Abal has indicated that it was matter for PNG to decide and not Australia.

    Rudd is keen to get the track – where close to 600 Australian diggers died stopping the advance of the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II – on the World Heritage List.

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