The recent construction of standard buildings with shiny silver iron roofs at Owers Corner illustrates the need for the Office of Australian War Graves to be involved in protecting our military heritage along the Kokoda Trail.
Owers Corner is a significant site. It is here that the road ends and the pilgrimage for thousands of Australians begins. It is where our diggers manhandled massive 25-pounder guns into position to provide heavy fire support to our troops on Imita Ridge for the first time in the Kokoda campaign.
In years to come, when an all-weather road is completed, thousands more will make the journey to see where Australian diggers began their march towards the advancing Japanese army.
The site is ideal for the development of a replica 1942 army depot built from bush materials with a battery of 25-pounders in position. The buildings could be easily designed for functional use as a police post, an administrative centre, a Koiari tree house, a store/café/picnic area, a diorama that tells the story of the Kokoda campaign and a local arts and crafts area.
The area should also have an interpretative gateway that reminds trekkers of the significance of the ground they are about to trek through.
The recent buildings and structures at Owers Corner are akin to desecration of the site. They have been built without consulting veterans’ organisations or trekkers. The buildings are straight off a standard Department of Works plan and the giant iron structure that purports to be a gateway is totally out of character with the surrounding environment.
Trekkers and visitors travel to Owers Corner because of the military significance of the site. If the site was planned to reflect the military and cultural heritage of the area it would generate economic activity that would maximise the benefit the local communities.
The historical significance and economic potential of the Owers Corner site deserves better. The Australian government must commission an interpretative memorial plan for the Kokoda Trail without delay and before any more money is wasted.