New Zealand Defence Force engineers and tradies are helping counterparts in Papua New Guinea build a 350km highway that will link more than 100 remote mountain villages.
The road will connect isolated villages and communities in the PNG highlands to the large trade and supply hubs at the third largest city of Mount Hagen and northern provincial capital of Madang.
The NZDF personnel have been training Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) engineers over the last month on road building techniques, basic maintenance, and safety procedures.
"The expertise of our Army engineers has been used to mentor and provide technical assistance to the PNGDF to complete a project that is of national significance to their government and of course the community," said Lieutenant Leroy Judge, senior national officer of the 20-strong NZDF contingent.
The Alternative Highlands Highway project is led and funded by the PNGDF.
It involves constructing a 350km gravel road, of which around 150km cuts through forest and over the Bismarck Mountain Range.
At present, locals, including schoolchildren, have to walk through dense forest to get to their mountain village homes.
Once completed, the new highway will be used as an alternative to the Highlands Highway, which links Mount Hagen to Lae, PNG's second largest city.
"Every day, the locals give our personnel fresh fruit and vegetables in gratitude," Mr Judge sad.
"Every time we go to town to get supplies, the villagers, particularly the children, run out to greet us. The term 'Kiwis' is a common expression around here now and they recognise our vehicles."