7 Mar 2008

PNG and Australian leaders direct officials to reach resolution by next month on Kokoda Track

2:39 pm on 7 March 2008

The Prime Ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea hope that further negotiation with the stakeholders can resolve a clash over plans to mine near the famed Kokoda Track.

The Australian leader, Kevin Rudd, is in PNG for his first visit as leader and the clash over the Kokoda Track has been a key issue for Canberra.

Australia wants to ensure that development does not impinge on the historic walk, why the landowners are demanding that a proposed copper and gold mine be allowed to proceed.

Our correspondent in PNG, Alex Rheeney, says the two leaders have decided to leave it to officials to try and reach a settlement with the parties involved.

"And they hope to come up with a compromise by next month when the Australian/Papuan New Guinean Ministerial Forum is held in Madang."

Alex Rheeney says that same Ministerial Meeting will also decide on the nature of additional Australian police assistance to PNG.

Mr Rudd has announced 12 million US dollars in funding to tackle PNG's AIDS crisis.

He warns that unless strategies change PNG could have half a million people with HIV by 2025.

Mr Rudd also announced measures to assist rugby league in PNG, including increased funding and a match between an Australian prime minister's team and PNG's national side the Kumuls.