Kokoda: Response & Recommendations

A post by Charlie Lynn:

I appreciate the work that has been done along the Kokoda Trail in regard to providing educational and health support for villagers. Whilst nobody can argue about meeting these important needs I have serious reservations about the process used in determining who should be responsible for the work; the priorities/partnerships associated with it; and the ongoing lack of effective management for trekking operations across the Kokoda Trail.

I believe much of the work carried out thus far is a Provincial Government responsibility and is not conducive to a longer term sustainable trekking industry.

Over the past decade I have met with the PNG Secretary of the Department of Education, AusAID staff responsible for education, and Provincial Government representatives to try and identify government and community schools along the track; the numbers of teachers and students in each one; the grades being taught; and a list of the books and supplies they need. Nobody has been able to provide me with this information. We therefore go to Theodist Stationary Suppliers in Port Moresby and make an educated guess for the village school supplies we provide under our ‘Yumi Helpim Pikannini’ program.

 If AusAID, the PNG Education Department and the Central and Oro Provincial Governments could somehow work together I believe most trek operators would cooperate in ensuring the education needs of all schools along the Kokoda Trail were satisfied. This would allow our AusAID money to assist more remote villages off the track in both Provinces.

The same logic applies to health support. 

I would also like to correct the perception that the previous KTA was largely ineffective. This is an unfair slight against the Executive Officer, Warren Bartlett, who was engaged on a salary of around $12,500 p.a. During his tenure he had to manage a Board of Directors who were unqualified for their Board responsibilities and who engaged in corrupt activities. He had no staff; no office; and received no support from either the Australian or PNG Governments. He had to micro-manage all finances; personally process all applications for trek permits; personally supervise all evacuations from along the track; manage grievances from a daily queue of landowners and others seeking help. In spite of this he delivered the following community projects along the track (reference is KTA Newsletter of January 2006):

Central Province

1. Track clearing and log bridge replacement contracts – Owers’ Corner to Templeton Crossing;

2. Part re-decking bridge (Sal Army) on Owers’ Corner Road;

3. Maintenance Owers’ Corner Memorial Park;

4. Maintenance McDonalds’ Corner Memorial;

5. Maintenance Depo Memorial;

6. Supply of Lawnmowers, tools and initial 20 litres petrol to Girinumu (Owers’ Corner), Depo, Bisiatabu, Maninumu, Kagi Airstrip, Efogi Airstrip, Manari Airstrip, Naduri Airstrip;

7. Supply poultry projects (wire mesh, nails, feed, feeders, drinkers, lamp & initial kerosene and box day old chickens x 50) to Vesulogo, Launumu, Efogi (x2), Kagi, Girinumu, Manari (x3), Naduri, Kavovo School;

8. Supply medical kits to Naoro, Manari, Kagi (KTF main funding K1,000 each);

9. School sponsorships – 26 students Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 ( funded 30% KTF, 70% KTA);

10. Repair Kokoda Track VHF radios – Manari, Kagi, Manumu;

11. School supplies – Manari, Kavovo, Efogi, Naoro (KTF main funding K4000 each);

12. Water Supply materials extension of Manari and Lone water reticulation;

13. Supply sporting equipment to youth Manari and Sogeri;

14. Welfare assistance Kagi community;

15. Upgrading camp ground toilets with fibreglass or plastic toilet trunks (ongoing);

16. Supply VHF radio equipment to Owers Corner (Girinumu),and Ioribaiwa (AusAid Homdap + KTA installation costs);

17. Conduct awareness and project inspection patrols;

18. Conduct Sustainable Tourism Workshop at Efogi (funded KTF); and

19. New Signboard for Kokoda National Walking Track at Owers Corner.

Oro Province

1. Clearing and maintenance for upgrading Kokoda Airstrip for Dash 8 aircraft;

2. Kokoda Town clean up;

3. Supply of Lawnmowers, tools and initial 20 litres petrol to Kokoda Memorial Hospital, Kokoda LLG, Kovelo, Gorari Anglican Parish, Kabara Anglican Parish, Sago Anglican Parish, SDA Kokoda;

4. Repairs to Kokoda Town GenSet and supply diesel fuel;

5. Supply Drum Ovens – Isurava and Alola;

6. Supply Coffee Pulpers – Abuari, Kaele, Hagutava;

7. Supply medical kit to Alola (KTF main funding K1000 each);

8. School Supplies – Kokoda, Alola, Kovelo;

9. School sponsorships – 26 students Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 ( funded 30% KTF, 70% KTA);

10. Track Clearing and log bridge replacement contracts – Kovelo to Templeton Crossing;

11. Repair of Kokoda Track VHF radios – Kokoda, Kovelo, Felai, Abuari;

12. Assist with materials and logistics Rotary project Abuari double classroom and aidpost;

13. Supply sports equipment and shields Kokoda Urban Soccer (donated by Adventure Kokoda);

14. Water, showers and toilets improvements – Isurava Memorial Park;

15. Commence set up of Kokoda KTA office;

16. Supply poultry projects (wire mesh, nails, feed, feeders, drinkers, lamp & initial kerosene and box day old chickens x 50) to Hoi, Amanda, Aso, Savaea, Sengi, Kele Dogua, Komo, Manua;

17. Welfare assistance – Biage Community Group, Emo River Village (Malagas Foundation);

18. Supply sewing machines and materials to Mothers Groups at Fala, Dorcas, Felai Lolo, Kebara;

19. Conduct Sustainable Tourism Workshop at Kokoda in July 2005;

20. Upgrade camp ground toilets with fibreglass or plastic toilet trunks (ongoing);

21. Supply new VHF radio equipment – Hoi, Templeton Crossing (Maraba), wind turbine at Mt Fala repeater (AusAid Homdap funded + KTA installation costs);

22. Supply filing cabinet, typewrirter, office stationery to Kokoda LLG;

23. Conduct awareness and project inspection patrols;

24. Conduct Sustainable Tourism Workshop at Kokoda (funded KTA/KTF); and

25. New signboards Kokoda National Walking Track (double sided) at Kokoda Hospital gate.

This is a remarkable achievement in view of the apathy displayed by both the PNG and Australian governments during his tenure; the difficulties of working with a Board of Directors engaged in corrupt activities; a paltry salary; and a lack of qualified staff.

The Kokoda Track Plan for Sustainable Tourism

During this period a Kokoda Track Plan for Sustainable Tourism was developed by Kelvin Templeton of Templeton-Galt and Colonel David Knaggs of Davendish Management Consulting on behalf of the Kokoda Track Foundation. I commissioned the study in my capacity as Chairman of the Kokoda Track Foundation at the time. Templeton-Galt enlisted the support of Dr Stephen Wearing of the University of Technology Sydney and Paul Chatterton of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Papua New Guinea.

The process used in developing the strategic plan involved workshops with former trekkers in Sydney; villagers in Efogi and Kokoda; and government/community stakeholders in Port Moresby.

The following goals and strategies were identified as part of that process:

1. Identify, preserve and promote the military heritage values of the track, to include the development of interpretive memorials at significant locations

2. Preserve the cultural heritage of the people living along the Kokoda Track

3. Provide protection for the Kokoda Track and the Owen Stanley Range as an area of outstanding biodiversity and universal natural heritage value

4. Build capacity in local communities to empower them to effectively participate in, and support, sustainable tourism

5. Develop an integrated approach to land use management and trekking based on sustainable practices

6. Protect and sustainably manage the areas surrounding the Kokoda Track for the benefit of local communities and visitors

7. Introduce effective governance, accountability and transparency to the KTA Committee of Management

8. Implement effective management systems for LLGs and communities

9. Implement and enforce standards and codes of conduct for tour operators, employees, trekkers and host communities

10. Develop and implement training programs for people engaged in tourism-related activities

11. Adapt the Kokoda model for sustainable tourism to other areas of military historical significance in PNG

12. Build the image of the Kokoda Track as a recognised world-class eco-trekking destination

13. Ensure the financial viability of tourism along the track

14. Provide for the safety and security of visitors to the Kokoda Track.

Proposed Strategies

Implementation

Goal 1

Establish a joint AS/PNG Govt organisation to direct and manage the implementation of the plan.

Socio-Economic Development

Goal 2.1

Build capacity in local communities to empower them to effectively participate in, and support, sustainable tourism

• Educate KTA, tour operators, guides, porters and communities in sound ecotourism practices (IES Principles)

• Conduct workshops and education programs in the basic skills needed to support tourism

• Set up a leadership development program for local communities

• Diversify economic activities in communities in order to reduce dependency on tourism

• Conduct research and prepare a report on the social, environmental and recreational carrying capacity of the Track

Goal 2.2:

Develop an integrated approach to land use management and trekking based on sustainable practices

• Sponsor community representatives to participate in training courses that provide the skills necessary to manage community development projects

• Establish community operated nature reserves to show-case local flora and fauna nage community development projects

Environmental Protection

Goal 3.1

Provide protection for the Kokoda Track and the Owen Stanley Range as an area of outstanding biodiversity and universal natural heritage value

• Obtain listing for the Kokoda track and parts of the Owen Stanley Range as a World Heritage site

• Establish a research program to identify and document natural heritage values of the Owen Stanley range

• Produce interpretive materials of the natural environment for trekkers

• Conduct an environmental impact assessment of tourism on the Kokoda Track

Goal 3.2

Minimise the negative impacts of tourism

• Apply to have contiguous areas adjacent to the Track declared as Wildlife Management Areas

• Implement a ranger training and development program for local communities

• Publish guidelines for ecologically sustainable practices to be adopted by tour operators, guides, porters, local communities and trekkers

• Develop an action plan to eradicate invasive exotic plant species on the track

• Introduce a construction code to ensure new buildings, camp sites and facilities are functionally and environmentally appropriate

Cultural Heritage

Goal 4

Preserve the cultural heritage of the people living along the Kokoda Track

• Introduce community programs which nurture and promote cultural heritage

• Publish culturally sensitive design and construction principles for site developments and buildings

• Establish a monitoring and reporting system for the preservation of cultural heritage

Military Heritage

Goal 5

Identify, preserve and promote the military heritage values of the track, to include the development of interpretive memorials at significant locations

• Establish a body to oversee the preservation and promotion of the military heritage values of the Kokoda Track

• Enact appropriate legislation to protect and honour the military heritage of the Kokoda Track (e.g. World Heritage listing)

• Develop a plan for the listing, preservation and commemoration of all significant military sites along the track

• Have the track recognised as a “National Memorial Park”, owned and managed by the customary landowners

• Incorporate military history education into a porter’s/guide’s vocational training program

• Improve the standard of interpretive and commemorative facilities at appropriate sites

• Incorporate WWII re-enactments into community cultural heritage presentations

Government and Management

Goal 6

Introduce effective governance, accountability and transparency to the KTA Committee of Management

• Provide training in good governance and management for the KTA Committee of Management

• Implement effective business systems and standing operating procedures for the KTA Committee of Management

• Conduct regular external audits of accounts and reviews of procedures for the KTA

• KTA to budget for, monitor and regularly report to PNG Govt on operating costs

• Establish effective communications between KTA, LLGs, landowners and tour operators

Goal 6

Implement effective management systems for LLGs and communities

• Develop a leadership and management training program

• Prepare and implement operating procedures

Operational

Goal 7.1

Implement and enforce standards and codes of conduct for tour operators, employees, trekkers and host communities

• A Code of Conduct be developed and enforced outlining appropriate behaviour and protocols for language, litter, cultural and religious observance

• Ensure host communities compliance with guest house standards, protocols and procedures

• Implement an accreditation scheme for tour operators

• Develop and enact minimum conditions of employment for trek leaders, guides, medics and porters

• Legislate to enforce compliance with KTA requirements such as payment of trek fees, appropriate behaviour and adherence to published trek itineraries

Goal 7.2

Develop and implement training programs for people engaged in tourism-related activities

• Appoint or employ a Registered Training Authority (RTA) to establish competencies and qualifications required of KTA approved trek leaders, medics, guides and porters

• Develop and implement training programs and an accreditation scheme for leaders, medics, guides and porters

Goal 7.3

Adapt the Kokoda model for sustainable tourism to other areas in of military historical significance in PNG

• Document the Kokoda Track model

• Apply the model in other locations in the region

Promotion

Goal 8.1

Build the image of the Kokoda Track as a recognised world-class eco-trekking destination

• Develop and implement a marketing plan which identifies potential and existing markets for ecotourism

• TPA to invest 10% of its budget to promote Kokoda and spin-off destinations

• Provide a facility for trekkers and trekking operators to provide feedback on their experience

• Coordinate the marketing efforts of local trekking operators

Goal 8.2

Ensure the financial viability of tourism along the track

• Establish community cooperatives to facilitate the collection and distribution of revenues

• Introduce regional centres for micro-financing and community banking systems

• Obtain commitment from potential donors for recurrent funding to cover the costs of authorised positions on the KTA

• Secure funding for education and community development programs

Financial

Goal 9

Ensure the financial viability of tourism along the track

• Establish community cooperatives to facilitate the collection and distribution of revenues

• Introduce regional centres for micro-financing and community banking systems

• Obtain commitment from potential donors for recurrent funding to cover the costs of authorised positions on the KTA

• Secure funding for education and community development programs

Law and Order

Goal 10

Provide for the safety and security of visitors to the Kokoda Track

• Develop standards of qualifications and competencies for trek leaders, medics, guides and porters

• Implement a community policing system to provide a secure environment for trekkers

I presented a final copy of the report to the Minister for Veterans Affairs and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, The Hon Sir Michael Somare, in April 2006. I can provide a copy of the report, together with a complete recording of all workshops conducted as part of the process to anybody interested in examining it in more detail.

Current Status

We seem to be engaging a reactive shot-gun approach to meeting community needs along the Kokoda Trail. This will undoubtedly make us – and them – feel good in the short term but it will not contribute to a sustainable trekking industry for the future.

The needs of the paying customer i.e. the trekker continue to be ignored. For example, as of 30 June 2009:

• There is no credible Trek Permit system – anybody can apply and receive a permit without any thought going into their medical preparedness to undertake such a grueling physical challenge or into their trek itinerary;

• There is no trek operator accreditation system;

• There is no campsite accreditation system;

• There is no system for trekker/villager feedback;

• There is no training and development system for village clans to ‘work together for good tourism’;

• There is no co-ordinated system for trek operators to provide educational and health support to villagers along the track; and

• There is no interpretative memorial plan;

The two major infrastructure requirements for the development of a sustainable trekking industry along the Kokoda Trail are:

• The upgrading of the gravel road between Sogeri and Owers Corner to an all-weather road; and

• The upgrading of the Kokoda airfield to enable it to accept Dash-8 aircraft.

The current expenditure of $250,000 for studies along the track (Village Livelihood Study, Track Analysis, Social Mapping, Transport Study) is an absolute waste of of time and money at this stage of the process.

The allocation of cash payments to Ward Committees will result in the money ending up in the pockets of a few. A fairer system of distribution would be to throw it out the back of a plane as it flew across a village!  Untied aid has been an abject failure in PNG.

The expenditure of A$33,000 trek fees to repair the road between Sogeri and Owers Corner is wrong. This is a Provincial Government responsibility. The Australian government should work in partnership with the PNG Government and Central Province to ensure it is capable of providing safe passage for trekkers. The amount of repair work that will be achieved with this small amount of money will not last for more than one week after completion – or less if it rains.

The Australian and PNG Governments are receiving a windfall from trekking across Kokoda. Since 2002 more than 20,000 people have trekked Kokoda. Their total expenditure would be in excess of A$100 million. This translates to a GST payment of more than $10 million. In return for this the paying customer, i.e. the trekker, has to negotiate a dangerous road to get to the start of the track; they do not have a single environmental toilet to poop into during their trek; and the condition of the Kokoda airfield does not inspire confidence.

At the moment there is a joint bureaucratic industry developing around the Kokoda Trail but the needs of the trekker, and the landowners across the track, continue to be ignored.  These issues were addressed in a Discussion Paper distributed in September 2007.  It can be viewed at:

http://niusleta.kokodatreks.com/documents/ADiscussionPaperontheKokodaEcoTrekkingIndustryNoPics.pdf

Recommendations

1. Adopt the Kokoda Track Strategic Plan as a blueprint for engaging villages communities, establishing future partnerships, developing a co-ordinated plan for sustainable trekking operations, and monitoring progress.

2. Restrict  Australian funding for the Kokoda Development Program to the upgrading of the road between Sogeri – Owers Corner and the upgrading of the Kokoda airfield to Dash-8 aircraft standard;

2. Conduct village workshops in the Koiari and Orokaiva sections of the Kokoda Trail at the beginning and end of each trekking season to determine needs, set objectives, develop partnerships and conduct reviews;

3. Conduct stakeholder workshops in Port Moresby;

4. Commission a Master Interpretative Memorial Plan for the entire Kokoda Trail;

5. Develop and implement a proper Management Plan for Kokoda trekking operations;

6. Develop a plan to co-ordinate assistance from Kokoda Trek Operators in regard to the delivery of health and education support to villages across the Kokoda Trail; and

7. Develop a plan in partnership with local landowners to construct bridges from bush materials and safety hand-rails from bush materials where requried.  Other than that leave the track alone as trekkers – the paying customers – have a strong desire to trek it as it is.

Further information on trekkers and landowners can be viewed at:

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2009/05/14/the-kokoda-trekker/

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2009/05/14/the-kokoda-trail-villager/

Comments

  1. jemayleah dunger says:

    You want to know the truth about kokoda name and the programs that is scarcely distributed to the so called kokoda name.why do you say kokoda when the whole of kokoda does not benefit?tell me in 500 words or more…kokoda trek belongs to which particular group you refer to so much and all these infrastructure goes to which particular people?????????????

    thankyou,
    kokoda youth

  2. I will leave it to you to tell me Jemayleah.

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