2 Oct 2006

PNG landowners urge Australian respect for their Kokoda property

4:07 pm on 2 October 2006

Kokoda landowners in Papua New Guinea say Australians walking the historic Kokoda Track are trespassing on private land.

Elders of two of the villages on the track say that Canberra must not interfere with local peoples' rights to allow mining.

The demands for their land rights to be respected are in a letter from leaders and elders of the Naoro and Eberi villages.

Australia has sent a delegation to PNG to complain about a planned mine along the track, where hundreds of Australian soldiers died fighting Japanese forces in a milestone Second World War battle.

The village lands are being explored for nearly two-billion dollars worth of gold and copper mining potential by Australian company Frontier Resources.

The leaders said they fully supported the company's explorations and the possible development benefits mining could bring to their people who lacked proper health services, schools and good water supplies.

The PNG government said it was too early to be concerned about environmental damage to the track and PNG had strict compliance processes that would ensure historical and cultural sites were protected.