Kokoda Tour Operators Association
REPORTS OF DISTURBANCE IN THE VILLAGE OF KOKODA PREVENTING FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT OF TREKKING GROUPS
Who we are: The Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) is a collective of Kokoda tour operators who lead, guide and operate tour activities along and on the Kokoda Trail and the northern beaches, battle areas in Papua New Guinea.
The KTOA was formed to fully and appropriately represent the Kokoda Tour Operators with the collective desire to see real, short and long-term benefits to the Kokoda Track communities, landowners, Porters, Guides, Carriers and PNG stakeholders.
It is the desire of the Association members to be able to contribute positively and effectively to Kokoda Trail communities.
What happened: On 19 February 2019 in the village of Kokoda there were reports of frustrated locals manning a checkpoint, preventing the access of trekking groups to the infamous Kokoda Trail. One of our members stated that they were met by a frustrated group saying that they were owed more than 500,000 Kina from the Government in payments and that they wanted to be compensated by literally taking matters into their own hands, seeking payments from the tour operators directly, not from the government, the body where trekking payments by tour operators are made. Our tour operator came to an agreement with the locals and was allowed to pass.
What we’re doing: The KTOA on behalf of its members has made contact with the governing body of the Kokoda Trail, the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) for assurance that they are dealing with this serious issue. The President of the KTOA, Mrs Sue Fitcher, has been assured by the Chief Executive Officer of the KTA that he has conducted an initial investigation into this alleged checkpoint and the people manning it. In his initial investigation he has discovered that their reason for the checkpoint relates to a grievance with their local parliament member, and that the check point has nothing to do with the KTA or a grievance with the trekking industry.
The trekking industry in PNG is a 10 Million Kina (roughly $5,000,000) a year industry that relies upon the strongest of relationships to succeed. It could be said that the locals are taking advantage of the start of the trekking season to make this statement and that they will get the attention that they seek through this action.
The CEO of the KTA has stated that he will accompany the local parliament member to Kokoda on Thursday 21 February to meet with the aggrieved locals in an attempt to resolve their issues.
It is important that these issues are resolved with some expedience with the commencement of the season upon us. To Australian trekkers, historians and adventurers this passage is one of great importance with close to 3500 people expected to make this journey in 2019, a journey which is known for its austerity of conditions and the difficulty of the terrain with a story that is best known for forging the relationship between the local “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” and the Australian soldiers. A descendant relationship that remains as important today as it was in 1942.