NEW Zealand-born ex-Army officer Captain Reg Yates has been a regular visitor to Papua New Guinea for almost 30 years.
Last year he was a key organiser of a major commemoration of World War I events on the Gazelle Peninsula.
That centenary of Australian military deployment to the Gazelle was covered for Radio New Zealand International by journalist Johnny Blades.
Johnny interviewed Reg about the significance of wartime events which have emerged as one of PNG's major tourism assets.
“Australians and New Zealanders have always been well regarded by the Papua New Guineans,” Reg said. “They always treated each other with respect.”
Reg agreed with Johnny that PNG could make more of its crucial role in two world wars in terms of its value as a tourism destination.
“On the military side Papua and New Guinea were able to field three battalions of soldiers during World War II. Most of them were used or detached as scouting units for the Australian and American forces.
“The Kokoda track is very well known to Australians,” he said. “Trekking is well-regarded but it has to be organised. There are enough pitfalls in walking through the rainforest, especially for trekkers who may be middle-aged and need to be shown the right way to go about it.”
Johnny spoke with Reg about the groups he took to Rabaul last year, and asked whether – given continuing volcanic eruptions – the town would be able to survive.
“I've just been visiting people in Christchurch and thinking about it,” said Reg.
“Christchurch had the earthquake and Rabaul had the volcano but what do people do? In both the majority has stayed on and I suppose keep their fingers crossed.”