AUSTRALIA and New Guinea are expected to unveil a broad agreement to protect the historic Kokoda Track, two days out from Anzac Day.
Ministers from both nations, including Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, are meeting in the resort town of Madang today, where details of the Kokoda agreement will be finalised.
The two governments have been in consultation over the historic World War II track - where 600 Aussie diggers died fighting the Japanese - amid fears a mining venture could damage part of it.
Australian company Frontier Resources this month said it had bowed to pressure and scaled back its exploration proposal to minimise damage to the track.
But given the site's historic importance to Australia, and the revenue it brings to PNG through tourism, the two governments want to formalise an agreement to safeguard its future.
The deal is expected to be among the primary focuses of the Australia-PNG ministerial forum - the first since 2005.
Since the last gathering, numerous issues have tested bilateral relations, including the PNG military's involvement in helping former Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti evade an Australian extradition attempt.
Before arriving in Madang yesterday afternoon, Smith said today's talks were a good sign for the relationship between the two countries.
"It is a very good sign that the Australia-PNG relationship is back on track," he told reporters in Canberra.
"It is a matter of record that in the recent period the Australia-PNG relationship had faltered and was not in a good state of repair. Now it is in a good state of repair."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had visited PNG in February, helping revive relations that faltered under the final years of the Howard government, he said.
Other issues to be discussed include Pacific Development Partnerships, climate change and a proposal for PNG nationals to be allowed to take short-term jobs in Australia under a guest workers scheme.
The PNG government is also expected to push for the $A360 million in annual AusAID funding to the Pacific nation to be better spent.
PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal has said the current spending model is ineffective and the money would be better spent on infrastructure like roads, wharves and bridges.
Smith has made the trip to PNG along with Trade Minister Simon Crean, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, Environment Minister Peter Garrett, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus.
Parliamentary secretaries Bob McMullan, Duncan Kerr and Jan McLucas will also take part.
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