What is the Kokoda Track Authority?

Anybody can – and many do – walk in off the street, fill out an application, pay a small fee and become an authorised Kokoda tour operator.  There are no due diligence checks.  They do not have to have a registered company.  They do not need a Public Liability insurance policy.  They do not need satellite phones, VHF radios or medical kits - and if something bad happens they have no assets to reclaim.

Trekkers should therefore take note of the old Latin proverb of Caveat emptor which means ‘let the buyer beware’ – as it is applicable to the current management system put in place by the Australian Government.

PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill recently initiated a review of the Kokoda Track Authority.  The current management system, put in place by the Australian Government during the period 2009-2012 has not worked.

Prior to the year 2000 the Kokoda Trail was only crossed by small numbers of hardy adventurers.

A rapid increase from 76 trekkers in 2001 to a peak of 5621 in 2008 transformed it into Papua New Guinea’s premier tourism attraction.

In 2003 the PNG Government established a ‘Kokoda Track (Special Purpose) Authority (the ‘KTA’) as a statutory government body of the Koiari and Kokoda Local-level Governments to manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry and ensure local villages across the trail received shared benefits from it.  Unfortunately it has not worked out as it was envisaged.

In 2004 a PNG expatriate CEO was appointed to manage the KTA with a part-time secretarial assistant.  During the next four years trekker numbers increased 255% from 1584 in 2994 to 5621 in 2008.

In response to a public outcry over a threat to mine a large part of the Kokoda Trail in 2006 the Australian Government entered into a ‘joint’ agreement with the PNG Government to assist in developing a case for the Owen Stanley Ranges to be listed as a World Heritage site.  Responsibility was delegated to the Department of Environment in Canberra.

This led to a vertable army of taxpayer funded environmental officials, academics, contractors and consultants to 'assist' PNG manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry.  For most it was their first trip to PNG.

In 2009 an Australian CEO was appointed to the KTA on an eye-watering salary package.  It was his first time in PNG and he did not trek across the Kokoda Trail until just prior to his departure in 2012.  He was supported by a 10-fold increase in staff and a multi-million dollar budget.

Despite this injection of resources annual trekker numbers declined by 44 per cent from 5621 in 2008 to 3156 in 2012!

A desktop study titled ‘Kokoda Track Authority Strategic Plan 2012 – 2015’ was developed over a long period of time.  It is instructive that not a single one of the five strategies or 33 key performance objectives contained in the plan were achieved.

The Australian CEO departed towards the end of 2012 without leaving a single management protocol in place for his PNG successor - no draft legislation; no management database; no campsite booking system; no integrity in the trek operator licensing system; no safeguards for the welfare of PNG guides and carriers; no audit system for campsite owners; no trail maintenance plan; no community development plan; etc. etc. etc.

The PNG management team were left with an unworkable model which has led to a call for a review by Prime Minister O'Neill.

They do not understand the Principles of Commemoration and know little about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.

Trekkers should be aware that they currently have no protection from the KTA.  There is no integrity in the licensing system.

 

Why Trek with Adventure Kokoda

Our primary goal is to lead you safely across the Kokoda Trail and ensure you have an unforgettable wartime historical and cultural experience.

Charlie has led more than 90 expeditions across the Kokoda Trail over the past 30 years.

He previously served in the Australian Army for 21 years. During this time he saw active service in Vietnam; was assigned to the joint Australian, New Zealand and British (ANZUK) Force in Singapore/ Malaysia from 1970-72, and as an exchange instructor in Airborne Logistics with the United States Army from 1977-78. He is a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College.

Why choose Adventure Kokoda?

See for yourself!

Tackling the Kokoda Trail is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and, whilst there's nothing like actually being there, you can get a feel for what to expect with some of our videos.

Take a closer look now and see why over 7,000 people have trusted us to bring this historical and cultural journey to life, leading them safely across the trail and ensuring they have an unforgettable experience.

See our videos

Why is Kokoda so important?Dive into the History