Topics: Protecting the forests of Papua New Guinea, Kokoda Agreement, Coral Triangle Initiative
Thank you for visiting our country, we appreciate your visit. We know the Prime Minister will be also visiting our beautiful country in 20 days time and we hope you have enjoyed your stay here. Thank you for allowing our other Ministers also to meet with you and to discuss broad areas with regards to the forest recovery plans for the Asia-Pacific region. We in Papua New Guinea appreciate your visit. I think it is timely and we do thank you that you had time to also visit Milne Bay and hope you have seen the forest cover in those areas.
The plans that we have together with Australia in terms of forest recovery for the Asia-Pacific region is something that we take seriously in this country. Under the leadership of our Prime Minster Honourable Peter O’Neill and our Government – the O’Neill-Dion Government – we are serious in making certain that we preserve areas, conserve areas for future generations to come.
As you know, the forest in Papua New Guinea is basically the supermarket of our people. About 85 to 95 per cent of our people are still rural based and as you fly over vast areas of our country, you will realise that the forest cover in the country is still here. We do also understand that there is a lot of forest degradation in the Asia-Pacific region but you will realise that in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Papua New Guinea, the forest rejuvenation and forest replenishment is something that happens even if the areas are logged out – you will realise that the areas grow and cover very quickly. So for us here in Papua New Guinea and under the leadership of our Prime Minister, who is very supportive of making certain that we phase out logging by 2020, it is a serious matter. And so we thank the Government of Australia for the support. We look forward to your technical support and other support we will see in the near future and make certain that the discussions that we have on a government to government basis come to fruition and we look forward to your support and the Papua New Guinea Government’s support in terms of our preparations together for the Paris meeting.
(Inaudible)…visit to your magnificent, beautiful country. When I say magnificent and beautiful, I start with the people, they are extraordinary. And you, your Cabinet, your Prime Minister and your people should be immensely proud of who you are and where you are in the world.
I also say magnificent and beautiful in terms of the amazing natural beauty. Papua New Guinea is a biological ark for the world. This is one of the world’s great natural reserves. But it’s a living reserve where, as you say, over 85 per cent of your population live within the environment and so it’s not something which should be frozen. It is a living, majestic, global environmental ark.
So having said that, I would then move to the relations between the two countries. Our two countries are friends. We’re more than that though, we’re partners. And we’re more than that, we are family and we are equal members of the same family. And so having said that I’m really delighted that we’ve achieved three very major outcomes from this visit.
First, with the Minister and myself, we have concluded that we will partner with Australia and PNG in taking a proposal to the global climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year for the forests of the world to be recognised, and where countries so choose, to be offered protection and credit, so there is an incentive and support for the very people who live in those forests. They are the traditional owners, the custodians, the customary owners for the forests and the land and the world has a role in helping to provide for that.
And so whether it’s through the Green Climate Fund, to which we’ve committed $200 million, the Forest Carbon Partnership, the Global Environment Facility or direct relations, we want to establish a framework which will help where yourselves as a sovereign nation or other countries so choose to seek support to better protect the forests. Papua New Guinea is not part of the global climate change problem but they are part of the climate change solution. And you are a uniquely placed country.
The second thing is that with Minister Pundari, who has been equally a wonderful co-host, we have reached a decision that Australia and Papua New Guinea will put together a long term Kokoda Agreement for the future management, maintenance and in particular protection of the customary rights of those people that live along the Kokoda Track.
This is part of an enduring commitment from Australia to support the Track. So it’s not something that we’ll do on a four year basis, this is an enduring commitment which will come with funds that we’ll allocate periodically but we see ourselves and Papua New Guinea as partners. Your land, your track, your people share a shared sacred site where the blood and the soil of both countries are mixed inextricably.
Then the last element was in Milne Bay I had the great privilege of meeting with Governor Philemon and working on the Coral Triangle Initiative. We will provide, Australia will provide $1.9 million in funding to Papua New Guinea for community development of locally managed marine areas. This is a wonderful example of local communities taking the initiative to maintain and protect for future generations your most extraordinary reefs. I was fortunate to see a little bit of the reef life and to see in Milne Bay an area which again has shared history, is your magnificent country, land and people but which is also one of the iconic global reef and rainforest sites.
So those three things, a partnership on Paris and the global climate change talks with regards to protection and recognition for forests. Secondly, the work which is being done on a future Kokoda Agreement. And thirdly, a contribution of $1.9 million towards supporting and assisting PNG in its work with local communities for reef protection. So, let me just finish, it’s longer than I would normally speak and I apologise for that, it’s been a real joy and a privilege to be with two such fine Ministers and I think that more Australians need to visit PNG because this country is an absolute treasure trove of humanity, culture and the environment.