Trekkers should ignore this advice on the Australian Government 'Smart Traveler' website because it is irresponsible and wrong.
'Kokoda Track and Trekking: Exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and travelling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track. Consider the high levels of serious crime in PNG when participating in trekking activity. Ensure that you leave an itinerary for your trek, including the contact details of the trekking company, with your family or friends in Australia.
'Australians should ensure they only travel with guides from reputable trekking companies registered with the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), a PNG local government agency which regulates trekking along the Kokoda Track. A list of registered trekking companies is available on the KTA website. Trekkers should check with their travel agent and/or tour operator that they have contingency plans in the event that the track is blocked.
'Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 323 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee. Information can also be obtained from the Tourism Promotion Authority on (675) 320 0211. '
Reasons why this advice should be ignored
The PNG Kokoda Track Authority is a dysfunctional local government organization as the result of a failed managment structure put in place by the Australian Government during the period 2009-2012. Not one of the five key strategies or 33 management objectives they established was achieved. Their PNG counterparts were left with an organisation that does not have a single management protocol in place.
There are no due diligence checks for trek operators - anybody can get a license simply by walking into the office and paying a fee. They are not required to have any insurance or emergency equipment such as satellite phones, radios, rear-links or trained first-aid leaders.
A number of local PNG companies are unable to get Public Liability Insurance policies so are allowed to trek without it.
A young mother of three died from an asthma attack on the trail a few years ago because the company she chose to trek with did not have a satellite phone, a radio, a first-aid kit or anybody trained in first aid. They were obviously much cheaper than other trekking companies who provide for such emergency contingencies - an epi-pen would have saved her life.
Recently a local PNG carriers died on the trail and there are allegations that he was overloaded by his Australian tour operator.
Trekkers should therefore be guided by the principle of caveat emptor i.e. 'let the buyer beware' because they currently do not have any protection from the management agency established by the Australian Government.