WALLACE H. (SOC) KIENZLE

Born in Papua New Guinea in 1950, Soc attended Trinity Grammar School in Sydney for most of his schooling. Growing up around Kokoda with a father, Captain HT “Bert’ Kienzle, who played a huge part in the Kokoda Campaign, Soc had an interesting and adventurous childhood, exploring the battlefields and being sent on various search, rescue and recovery missions. It was not unusual for him to visit Port Moresby and walk home over the Kokoda Trail if there were no suitable flights. This famous track was his backyard and he first traversed it at age 13 in 33 hours from McDonalds Corner to Kokoda including 6 hours sleep at Kagi.

On leaving school he worked for Winchcombe Carsons and began his pilots training. Illness of his Uncle meant he had to return to work on their rubber and cattle plantations. In 1975, with PNG Independence, the departure of most Europeans and his marriage to Robyn, he soon took over management of the family estates which had been operating since the 1930s. Soc was in charge of over 300 workers, and over 1000 natives who resided on the properties. In addition to rubber and its own rubber factory, the estates had 3000 head of cattle, its own abattoirs, butcher shop and sawmill. Cattle were slaughtered and airlifted to Port Moresby over the infamous Kokoda gap/trail.

When the estates were sold to the PNG Dev Bank in 1980, Soc and Robyn stayed on to manage the properties for them for 3 years to reduce the impact of such a major change for the local native people.. During this time, Soc was contracted by the World Bank for 6 weeks to prepare a report, assisted by Robyn, on the future of the rubber industry and cattle production in PNG. In 1983, the Kienzles left PNG to live on a farm they had purchased near Warwick. There, Soc had cattle but soon realised it was not a viable area so they bought the supermarket in Allora which they operated for twelve years.

In 1991, Soc toured Australia in a caravan with the family to search for greener pastures. They bought a farm at Bundaberg with the intention of growing Okari nuts, a PNG delicacy, but a series of events, in particular, illness of Robyn’s father meant this was sold in 1993. Soc then decided to intensify and plant asparagus on the farm near Warwick. With 66 acres of asparagus and a processing shed, employing up to 50 people in the peak season, the Kienzles established a reputation for consistently high quality, well presented fresh asparagus and Mamba elite Asparagus was in high demand.

In 2005, Soc and Robyn sold the farm and moved to their beachfront unit on the Gold Coast. It was at this time that they set up the trekking company Komplete Kokoda and Soc began taking people who were interested in the real history of the Kokoda campaign, across the Trail, while Robyn stayed at home writing Bert Kienzle’s biography, “The Architect of Kokoda” .Soc’s dream was to set the record straight and clear away the myths being perpetrated by uninformed tour leaders. Diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010, Soc went through treatment successfully then decided to buy Management Rights and move to back to the Tropics, in Cairns. This required getting his Real Estate License.

Soc did many trips to Kokoda and two to the summit of Mt Victoria, one of which was the first Commercial expedition. His final trek over Kokoda was in August 2016 when he took his son-in-law and tour leaders from Getaway Trekking – the only company apart from Kokoda Historical who has cared to learn the truth. With the successful publication of “The Architect of Kokoda” in 2011 and both his daughters and their husbands having done the Trail, Soc is content to now just spread the word by talking to interested people here in Australia and perhaps returning from time to time to his old home at Mamba.