Monday, February 7, 2011

Bulldog Track Access for locals to be challenged in court

Bulldog Track Access for locals to be challenged in court.

The remote Tekadu people have used the Bull Dog track for many years to bring their market goods like buai, tobacco, dried river fish, galip nuts and gold for sale into Kaindi (Eddie Creek) & Wau and also to access to health centres and to bring children for schooling.The closure of Tekadu peoples only access into Kaindi &Wau Town has left them with no option but to track from Tekadu and overnighting in Nukeva (Tauri Lakekamu LLG - Kerema) then catch banana boat for Yopoi Bridge (Malalau – Kerema) and then catch PMV to Port Moresby totalling three or four days of travel.

The Councillor of Tekadu Ward 20 of Wau Rural LLG Mr Henry Timothy has explained that for the villagers to transport a 20kg bag of Buai into Port Moresby they have to pay village porters to carry buai bags from Tekadu into Nukeva (a whole days walk) and then another day on banana boat into Yopoi then catch PMV on the notorious Kerema Highway into Port Moresby.Many has fallen victims of criminal hold ups on PMV & banana boats while the economics of transporting their produce from Tekadu into Port Moresby has proven uneconomical ever since the closure of their only access into Wau by MMJV Mine Operators the Newcrest of Australia & Harmony Gold of South Africa.

Councillor Henry stressed that the cost of travelling to Port Moresby markets has made it very difficult for the locals to earn their living and many has given up their ways of earning cash by returning to their subsistance way of life which means they won’t be able to afford salt, cooking oil, school fees, rice, soap or even to cloth themselves.

Tracking into Hidden Valley and Eddie Creek has been their traditional route and the councillor wants their local member of parliament Hon. Sam Basil to fight the developer of Hidden Valley for their rights to use the Bulldog Track again.

Hon. Sam Basil Mp assured Councillor Henry Timothy that the traditional rights of the people to have access to the bulldog track that runs into Hidden Valley Mine will be challenged in court.
Photo. L Hon. Sam Basil & Councillor Henry Timothy

Before the mining company arrived the Tekaduans have been using the Bulldog Track even long before world war 2 and know that they still have their rights. They believe that there are international laws somewhere including our national constitution that can protect the indigenous people’s rights like themselves and their way of living from big international mining companies like MMJV.

In 2006 and again in 2009 the Tekadu people tried to protest at the entrance of the company in Hidden Valley to ask for their access rights but were ignored the first attempt resulted in several arrests made.
Councillor Henry said the victims were Peter Yaku and Sonagi Elimas including their wives were arrested and detained in Bulolo cells and were later released on bail.

When Morobe Mining Joint venture commenced the Hidden Valley Mining Operations, it prohibited access to the Tekadu people to the Bull Dog Track by placing locked gates and security guards with guns at the points where the Bull Dog track enters and exits the mining lease area. MMJV have unlawfully terminated the access to the Bull Dog track for these people.

The Bull Dog track was constructed by Australian Army engineers and Papua New Guineans over 9 months in 1943. More than 2000 Australians and 2000 Papua New Guineas cut the road with pickaxes and dynamite over a period of eight months and it was built for the purpose of providing a supply line for future military operations in the Markham Valley and on the North Coast of Papua New Guinea.

The Chief Engineer, W. J. Reinhold, was later to write "Every foot of progress made on this road exacted the ultimate in courage, endurance, skill and toil. Its construction took a toll from surveyor, engineer, laborer and native carrier alike."made famous because.

Mr Basil said, the people now have to walk around, in much more difficult terrain that adds three days onto their journeys. The people of Yanina, Anandea, Yanawe, takadu 1 and tekadu 2 cannot bring store goods back to their homes because of the rough terrain and have to cross into Gulf and Central provinces to sell their betelnut and raise funds for their basic needs and to get treatment at health centres. The lengthy walk means the people cannot carry their market goods into Wau nor get emergency case to medical treatment into Wau in time.

There was an aid post and a school in the tekadu people’s area but both of closed due the blocking of the track by MMJV. Last year a woman who had complications from child birth was carried for 7 days on the diverted route and she died 50m from the health centre. Had she and her carriers been allowed access to the Bull Dog track, she would have reached the health centre days earlier, and probably would have survived.

The closure of Bulldog track has also affected the tourism industry therefore unlike the black cat villagers people from Tekadu cannot build guest houses or participate in the tourism business spin offs.

By blocking access to this track, MMJV has infringed on the people’s customary land use rights contrary to the Mining Act and breached their Constitutional rights including but not limited to S52 Freedom of Movement and S53 Unjust Deprivation of Property. MMJV has not provided an alternate route for the Tekadu people, nor have their compensated them for their loss of land use and breach of their rights. The Bulolo District has determined that it will assist these people to take redress against MMJV and enforce these people’s rights and hold MMJV accountable for their actions.

Satellite Image of Bulldog track.

History of Bull Dog track
In 1943 Australian Army engineers; the 2/1 and 2/16 Field Company RAE, 9th Australian Field Company (AIF), veterans of Greece and Crete, the 1st and 3rd Australian Pack Transport Companies and local Papuan labor cut the road with pickaxes and dynamite over a period of eight months. The Chief Engineer, W. J. Reinhold, was later to write "Every foot of progress made on this road exacted the ultimate in courage, endurance, skill and toil. Its construction took a toll from surveyor, engineer, laborer and native carrier alike." During five months of operations over seventy per cent of the 2/1 Australian Field Company contracted malaria.

Along many sections, road-surfacing materials was practically non-existent. The climate ranged from torrid heat to icy cold. The annual rainfall ranged between 150 and 200 inches. These wet conditions combined with the topographic features made construction extremely difficult. In a few minutes a landslide would destroy weeks of labour. The construction gangs would stop, repair the work and move on.

As work progressed the problem of maintaining a supply line became formidable. Work was often suspended for lack of petrol, oil, grease explosives, drill steel, jack bits or other essentials. Nearly all work in the high central section of the road was done with picks, shovels and crowbars. Since blacksmiths tools were slow in arriving and forges awkward to transport, it was often necessary to use badly blunted tools.

The purpose of the road was to provide a supply line for future military operations in the Markham Valley and on the northern coasts of Papua New Guinea. On the late afternoon of August 22, 1943, the road was finally completed and two jeeps crossed from Edie Creek to Bulldog.

On September 23, the first three ton trucks crossed the road successfully and the long supply line was finally open with 114 kilometers of road were now completed. Commencing at Bulldog at an altitude of 59 meters it rose by a series of long loops up through the steep river gorges of the southern watershed to an altitude of three thousand meters, and then dropped down a series of ridges into the Wau valley.

Seventeen bridges were constructed; mostly single, but at least one with multiple spans. More than two thousand Australian army personnel and over two thousand Papuans and New Guineans were involved during nine months of construction. Thus the road, acclaimed as the greatest military engineering feat ever was completed and for the only time in history motor vehicles crossed the high rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea.

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