Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges

Date of Submission: 06/06/2006
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Department of Environment and Conservation
State, Province or Region:
Central and Oro Provinces
Coordinates: S9 22 48 E148 24 00
Ref.: 5061

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The property is a mixed cultural and natural site covering a significant proportion of the Owen Stanley Ranges near Port Moresby and potentially including the Kokoda Track, Managalas Plateau and Mount Victoria and Mount Albert Edward region.

The Owen Stanley Ranges, through which the Kokoda Track passes, is one of the most biologically important areas in the Asia Pacific.  The 3,800 m high Ranges are a significant element of the globally outstanding (G200) South East Papua Rainforest Ecoregion. Extreme altitudinal and climatic variation have produced a rich variety of vegetation types from savanna to monsoon forest, lowland rainforest and cloud forest.  Some of the most extensive and least disturbed subalpine herb and grasslands in New Guinea are found on Mount Albert Edward. The Owen Stanley Mountains Centre of Plant Diversity has one of the richest floras of any mountain range in New Guinea with more that 4000 plant species including many local endemics. This exceeds the floral diversity of the entire World Heritage listed wet tropic rainforests of North Queensland.    The Owen Stanley forests provide habitat for endemic birds of paradise, bowerbirds, finches, wallabies, rats and numerous species of butterflies and aquatic insects including a number of endangered or critically endangered species. The Central Papuan Mountains Endemic Bird Area is one of the richest areas for endemic birds on earth with 510 species (almost two thirds of all New Guinea birds) and 40 endemic or near endemic species. The Laloki/Brown River wetlands is a particularly important dry season refuge for migrant waterfowl from Australia and a staging area for migratory Palearctic shorebirds.  The southern flanks of the Range provide part of the water catchment for Port Moresby.

The Koiari and Orokaiva peoples, the traditional owners of the region, retain a subsistence economy augmented by income from a growing tourism industry. Communities strongly support the protection of the historical and natural values of the Track and proudly demonstrate their culture.  The Kokoda Track is iconic in the history of PNG, Australia and New Zealand as the site of a major World War II battle that turned the fortunes of the Japanese in the Pacific.  This is PNG's most significant land-based tourism drawcard offering a combination of historical, cultural and natural features.  2000 trekkers walked the grueling ten day journey in 2005 and further growth is anticipated.

The current Kokoda Track Reserve protects an area only 10 meters wide on either side of the track.  A Kokoda Memorial Park is now proposed that will protect the historic, cultural and natural values of the region in much larger reserve. A 300,000 ha protected area is also being established on the Managalas Plateau.

The Kokoda Track Authority was established in 2005 to develop a coherent management regime for the Track region and a Sustainable Tourism Strategy will be launched in April 2006.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Natural systems remain in remarkable good condition with only a few limited areas of human habitation.  A World Heritage listing would assist in addressing threats to the region from logging and mining proposals.  Orokaiva and Koiari cultures have withstood massive changes in the last century and are facing further pressures with the growth of tourism. A World Heritage listing will support efforts to effective manage the region in ways that reflects local culture and ambitions, that support national and international interest in tourism and historic site protection and that promotes pride in cultural traditions.

Comparison with other similar properties

There are no existing properties that represent elements of the biodiversity or culture of the south eastern New Guinea. Lorentz World Heritage Area protects some species that are shared with this region but there are significant differences in species composition, ecosystems, climate and geology.