NEGLECT EATS AWAY AT PNG’S NATIONAL PARKS

Editorial

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Aug. 26, 2008) - Two stories deserve a commentary today; the first concerns our national parks. Even before independence, efforts were made to define and develop national parks within Papua New Guinea.

The impetus for creating these areas sometimes came from Members of Parliament, to their credit; on other occasions national parks were the result of significant support from overseas, as in the case of Australian Sir Edward Hallstrom and the Baiyer reserve in the highlands.

The parks have made a re-appearance in the news as a result of the pathetic neglect of the Variarata national park on the Sogeri plateau above Port Moresby.

We can recall a time when the road to Variarata was thronged on weekends with picnicking families from the capital.

There were barbeques dotted throughout the park with ample firewood provided and there were many safe swimming places such as Crystal Rapids and an assortment of water holes.

It was a place to take visitors, often somewhat shell-shocked by the impact of Port Moresby, and show them another face of this beautiful country.

An unobtrusive information centre was available within the park and it provided an excellent chance for families to get away from the hassles of daily life in the city that could be seen on the horizon from a number of Variarata lookout points.

Well sign-posted walking tracks of varying length and difficulty were available and attracted bushwalkers not only from Port Moresby but also from overseas.

Now there are plans for "a floating kiosk" and "residential units" to be constructed at a site within the park.

We doubt that this is good news for the deteriorating park. It echoes the bizarre concept of yet another hotel proposed for the Lae Botanical Gardens.

National parks are meant to preserve as much of nature as possible and are designed to keep human intrusion to an absolute minimum.

The world is littered with supposedly eco-friendly developments that have subsequently resulted in the total destruction of the very environments they were supposed to complement.

As for Baiyer, we wonder how much of that magnificent area remains untouched and whether the amazing wildlife it was once home to still inhabit its forests.

Sir Edward, who was a prime mover in the post-war development of Sydney’s famous Taronga Zoo, had interests in the highlands of PNG and was behind the move to establish a national park in the Baiyer area.

Since those days little or nothing has been heard of the fate of that substantial area.

We commend the Minister for Environment and Conservation, Benny Allen, for his forthright comments and suggested approaches to managing these and the many other identified major national park assets.

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