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NZDF helps build road for mountain communities

NZDF helps build road for mountain communities

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) engineers and skilled tradespeople are mentoring the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) as they build a 350 kilometre road that will link over 100 remote mountain villages in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“The road will link isolated villages and communities in the PNG highlands to the large trade and supply hubs at Mount Hagen and Madang,” said Lieutenant (LT) Leroy Judge, Senior National Officer of the 20-strong NZDF contingent.

Mount Hagen is the third largest city while Madang is the capital of a bustling province on the northern coast of mainland PNG.

Deployed to PNG in early August 2015, NZDF personnel have been training PNGDF engineers on road building techniques, basic maintenance, and safety procedures.

“The expertise of our Army engineers has been used to mentor and provide technical assistance to the PNGDF to complete a project that is of national significance to their government and of course the community,” LT Judge said.

The Alternative Highlands Highway project is led and funded by the PNGDF. It involves constructing a 350 kilometre gravel road, of which around 150 kilometre cuts through forest and over the Bismarck Mountain Range. At present, the locals, including schoolchildren, have to walk through dense forest to get to their mountain village homes.

Once completed, the new highway will be used as an alternative to the Highlands Highway, which links Mount Hagen to Lae, PNG’s second largest city. The Highlands Highway takes 10 hours to travel and is often closed due to slips.

“Every day, the locals give our personnel fresh fruit and vegetables in gratitude. They shake our hands and thank us for supporting this task.

“Every time we go to town to get supplies, the villagers, particularly the children, run out to greet us. The term ‘Kiwis’ is a common expression around here now and they recognise our vehicles,” said LT Judge.

New Zealand and PNG have a long and rich history of defence cooperation, with both the NZDF and PNGDF serving together in the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, and the PNGDF taking part regularly in Exercise Southern Katipo in New Zealand.

The NZDF’s Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP) provides training support in partnership with the PNGDF. Under the MAP, around 40 PNGDF personnel receive a combination of command, leadership, staff, and specialist training both in New Zealand and in PNG each year, while PNG brings specialist expertise and experience as instructors to NZDF courses.

ENDS

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