Kokoda code on Track

The following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2 September, 2009:

The Government of Papua New Guinea will crack down on rogue tour operators on the Kokoda Track who are not paying taxes or taking proper safety percautions.

PNG’s Investment Promotion Authority has developed a code of conduct for foreign operators and is talking with them about increasing oversight and a licensing system.

Under PNG law, companies operating for more than 31 days are required to resister with the authority and pay taxes to the Government.

But the authority’s managing director, Ivan Pomelau, told the Herald that monitoring foreign companies to ensure they obtained proper work permits “is quited difficult to enforce given that PNG’s tourism industry is at its infant stage”.

He said a “lot of work needs to be done in terms of regulation and enforcement … [We have] been focusing our effort on marketing and promoting the destination rather than regulating the industry”.

The executive director of the Kokdoa Track Authority, Rod Hillman, said his body was considering a licensing system to help improve safety procedures and standards on the track.

“We’ve gone from 100 people walking along the track a year to a situation where we’ve got around 5000 people walking the track a year. As an industry grows, you want to increase the standard and make the experience for the trekker more reliable and safer experience. A way of doing that is coming in and start licensing operators.”

Mr Hillman said companies and trekking groups sign a code of conduct, but a licensing systems would give authorities the teeth to enforce standards.

“The main problems we’ve had is with independents – people walking without a tour operator. That’s where I’ve had the most troublesome weekends, waiting beside the radio trying to get people out of the track to safety.”

Jonathon Dart
Journalist, SMH


  1. Adventure Kokoda contracts with a PNG registered company, Sogeri Enterprises Limited to handle all of our trek logistics in PNG. This includes the engagement of PNG trek guides and carriers; the purchase of ALL food required for the trek from PNG supermarkets; vehicle transport; aircraft charters; Kokoda trek fees; village campsite fees; group camping gear; etc.

    As a PNG registered company, Sogeri Enterprises, pays individual and company tax to the PNG treasury in accordance with PNG law.

    Adventure Kokoda also processes all trek bookings through a registered travel agent in Australia – Twin Towns Travelscene at Tweed Heads.

    Adventure Kokoda has fully complied with Australian and PNG company law for the past 18 years – and will continue to do so.

  2. Adventure Kokoda obviously demonstrates a high level of professionalism in both the administrative and trekker welfare areas. It sets the standard which should be followed by all other operators in order to ensure that the villagers and trekkers are all catered for at the highest levels. Since competing the trek myself earlier this year with AK, I continue to hear of other trekker experiences and shake my head at some of the comments which are made.

    AK certainly is a gold standard company and I am so glad that I chose to take the journey with them. Good on you Charlie,


  3. I too, cringe hearing of some of the experiences some trekkers have had with other trekking companies. I am regularly being asked about my Kokoda experience, and every time without fail I find myself speaking deep from the heart when I proudly tell them about my time with Adventure Kokoda! They were such an organised, fun, reliable and as Liz stated, gold standard company. The proffessionalism of Charlie Lynn and his deputy leaders Bernie Rowell and Gary Blackwood, the outstanding job done by our PNG leaders/porters, made my trek a journey I will remember forever. I will do Kokoda again but only with AK.

  4. Narelle Chennells says:

    I would hope the licensing and registration provides some sort of limitations for the porters and group carriers. By this, I mean not only in what they are paid and how they are treated, but in terms of the huge weights the boys carry in their backpacks.
    I was witness to a well known “charity” group (I use that term loosely) planning their trek. Not only did they choose one of the cheapest and nastiest unknown “companies” to trek with, they paid such a small price to trek, which I am sure funds did not make their way back to the boys, the KTA etc. After follow up when they came home, campsite fees were not paid, radios and safety equipment were not carried, and for the 6 Australian trekkers, well- the group had to purchase and carry their own food (for themselves plus the porters- which was 2 minute noodles EVERY meal), provide and carry their own backpacks and tents (which they brought with them from Australia), and were given no direction regarding required medical fitness, medicines to be carried on the track, hotel accommodation in Moresby, or transfers in Moresby and Popondetta.
    The worst thing for me to hear was that they were given 6 porters. These porters carried greatly in excess of 30 kg’s EACH. This load increased when the trekkers were underprepared, and when injury resulted partway through the trek. The most disturbing part was that these Australians, part of what they called a “charitable” expedition, thought nothing of this. They thought it was normal and expected for the boys to carry such backbreaking loads for them. I ask- what trekking company would allow this to happen???!!! After all was over, the boys were also left to make their own way home. No pre-arranged options or provisions. I shudder to think what monetary compensation was made to each porter.

    Just because the boys can carry excessive loads, and just because they dont question the practices, and just because they dont complain- does not mean it is right. There are several companies who cover these basics and put the welfare of the porters and group carriers first- Adventure Kokoda is one of them. I definately hope the licensing sees companies provide sufficiently for the porters, and provides some education for the boys so they know what is reasonable and what they can ask for and expect in return. If it means the dodgy companies have to put their prices up to engage more porters, then at least it would be standard across all trekking companies, not just trying to undercut each other while the big boss in Moresby is the only one who profits.

  5. On those comments from Narelle, another great trait of Adventure Kokoda is that randomly along the Track, all trekkers packs are weighed along with their personal porters pack to make sure no-one is sneakily loading their porter up with extras they find they can’t carry! ( Yes, this does happen) the ‘Boys’ would never utter a word about the extra weight but it’s the principal of the matter! All the porters with AK are treated the way they should be, like Angels! ( the fuzzy kind!)

  6. Simon J Hart says:

    The issue is not just about paying PNG taxes !

    What about an Australian Treeking Company who claims to have over 1000 trekkers cross the Trail in one season but failed to lodge pay the trek permits with the KTA ! This company is believed to have sought a delayed payment system withthe KTA over the following year.

    This of course is in essence treating the KTA as a benevolent financial institution offering interest free loans of up to $50,000 ! The trekkers think that their money is being paid into the KTA and appropriate PNG stakeholders not propping up cash flow issues.

    Hmmmm … some clear ethical issues here I suspect …

    I hope that this behaviour is cover in the draft code of conduct !

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