In 2008, Australia and Papua New Guinea committed to work together for the protection and sustainable use of the natural and cultural resources of the Owen Stanley Ranges region including the Kokoda Track.
The Australian Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) is assisting PNG to undertake a number of land use and protection projects. This is a “whole of government initiative” and the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), with DEWHA's assistance, is currently developing spatial systems and databases to support the land-use planning requirements of the Kokoda Initiative and development of a Sustainable Development Masterplan for the Brown River Catchment, Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges region.
The Australian Kokoda Taskforce and PNG National Taskforce identified three critical datasets as requirements for the land use planning work for the Kokoda Initiative:
- High Resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for use in deriving key terrain attributes such as slope, aspect, drainage and susceptibility to erosion
- Current land use maps for use in delineating the Kokoda Track and broader heritage values and Interim Protection Zone
- Forest cover change and biomass assessment
CRCSI is assisting to develop these key data sets through the provision of high spatial resolution, digital elevation data for slope analysis, drainage delineation and flood modelling using Earthdata aerial GeoSAR and satellite PALSAR data. These datasets were required to assess suitability of the Owen-Stanley Ranges and adjacent high-relief hills and foothills for logging, susceptibility of the cleared landscape to erosion, line of site visualisation and to assess the suitability of these areas for different land uses.
Land cover mapping is also possible using the combined GeoSAR data set, which included P-band and X-band radar imagery, and in which land cover types, such as forest, plantations and crops, mangroves, clearings and disturbed areas could be readily distinguished.
A ground data campaign is planned for accuracy assessment and validation of the full land cover classification and for biomass estimation.