‘I cannot say enough kind words about them. Throughout the entire trek I felt supported and knew that I could turn to them for help at any time. They were always in the right spot at the right time. They were so encouraging and only wanted to see me succeed. They have so much patience, I never felt rushed or scared because I knew they’d be there to help. They would encourage me to walk at my own pace and take as many breaks as I needed to succeed. Without them I would not have gotten as far as I did. I enjoyed listening to their stories about their families and knowledge of the trek and country.’
‘All of the Adventure Kokoda team where extremely professional. The boys worked so hard to make sure we always felt safe in situations that could sometimes feel scary. Our shovel man Nelson was just incredible, always checking to make sure everyone was okay. It was amazing to witness a group of people work so hard and efficiently as a team to get all of us (the trekkers) across the finish line.
‘Overall an amazing group of people and when they all sung their National anthem …chills and tears!! I miss them already.’
By Rhys Jack on Nov 09, 2019 03:00 am Sunday Telegraph, 10 November 2019
Described as the by-product of throwing Chuck Norris and Indiana Jones into a blender, this former Australian Army Major has been trekking across the infamous Kokoda trail for more than 28 years.
One of the most difficult things I’ve attempted in my life has to be trekking across the Kokoda Trail. Over 140 kilometres in length, and climbing up over 6,750 metres. It took nine days to hike from Owers’ Corner in the south of Papua New Guinea through the most humid jungles, across torrential rivers and over never-ending mountains that made me seriously question why the hell I was doing it. And finally, after being stretched to physical and mental limits, the trail winds down to the small village of Kokoda on the Northern plateau of the island where those who complete it can celebrate an incredible accomplishment.
In 2008 Adventure Kokoda was the only trekking company out of 37 licensed trek operators to pay all of their trek fees in full and in advance – something we are very proud of.
A discreet audit revealed that operators from the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association tried to sneak a total of 770 trekkers across the trail without paying trek fees – so much for their fake respect for subsistence villagers along the trail!
The Australian CEO then did a secret deal with each one of them which resulted in them all receiving discounts from what they owed. As a result Adventure Kokoda had to wear a heavy financial penalty for doing the right thing.
The following ‘Freedom of Information‘ request to the Australian Government cost us more than a $1000 which turned out to be the most expensive 7 sheets of paper we have ever purchased!
So much for transparency – and they wonder why nobody trusts them!!
Speech to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 4 May 2006
Debate resumed from 2 May 2006.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.32 p.m.]: The acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican and reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor Government era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say sorry for historical wrongs over which we had no influence. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the Government.
I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate, not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. My view is that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The “feelgood” factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine to get some balance back into the debate and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.
The annual KTA junket to Brisbane for a ‘Tour Operators Forum’ on 27 November 2019 should be cancelled and the venue switched to Port Moresby according to long-term Kokoda trekker, Major Charlie Lynn.
‘The agenda for the forum is currently irrelevant to the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry’ said Lynn.
‘It is worth noting that there has never been an identifiable outcome from any previous KTA Forum conducted in Australia over the past 10 years – apart from setting the date of their next forum!
‘Of more concern is the fact that if a motion is passed at a forum that the KTA does not approve of – even one passed unanimously by 63 PNG trek operators and leaders concerning the exploitation of their local guides anc carriers – the KTA will not action it or even publish the Minutes because of their fear of a backlash from the vocal Australian Tour Operators Association.
‘As a result the KTA now operates in a parallel universe to the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry.
While the arrival of half-a-dozen Australian Government Ministers in PNG during their annual ‘Repentance Day’ holiday is coincidental it does provide a timely opportunity to offer some repentance of our own for the past few decades of paternalism in our relationship with our closest neighbour, former territory, fellow Commonwealth Member and wartime ally.
The delegation is obviously an outcome of the recent visit to Australia by Prime Minister James Marape who was accorded VIP treatment by our PM, Scott Morrison. Indeed it was the highest profile visit by any PNG Prime Minister for at least three decades and there is no doubt the two leaders have developed a close friendship.
I would hope the Ministerial delegation will include a visit to Bomana War Cemetery to allow them to pay their respects to the thousands of young Australian and Papuan soldiers who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy in both countries today.
One cannot visit Bomana without feeling an intense sense of pride in the work the Office of Australian War Graves do in maintaining such a sacred site. It was therefore disappointing to see our Minister for Veterans Affairs was not part of the delegation in view of the fact that PNG is the custodian of land sacred to our shared wartime heritage.
Bomana is not only a sanctuary for reflection on past sacrifice it is also a gateway for relationship building as increasing numbers of Australians are seeking pilgrimages to battlefields in Kokoda, Buna, Gona, the Black Cat Track, Shaggy Ridge, Milne Bay, Lae and Rabaul. Over the past decade more than 50,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail which has generated more than $150 million for tourism income.
Unfortunately the mood of the delegation will change if they
are venture beyond Bomana.
TripAdvisor has judged Adventure Kokoda to be the best trekking company on the Kokoda Trail in 2019 – for the 5th consecutive year.
The 560 trekkers we have led across the trail this year has generated the following benefits for PNG:
K1 million for Air Niugini
K200,000 trek fees for the KTA
K290,000 for food purchases at Port Moresby supermarkets
K260,000 for accommodation at Sogeri
K100,000 for bus/truck transport
K450,000 for charter aircraft between Port Moresby and Kokoda
K2.56 million in wages for our PNG guides and carriers
K400,000 for campsite owners
K130,000 for local purchases along the trail
K260,000 worth of school and medical supplies donated by our trekkers
K60,000 worth of clothing and equipment donated to guides and carriers at the end of their trek
This equates to atotal benefit of K5.35 million for PNG from Adventure Kokoda this year![i]. In 1991, when Charlie Lynn first trekked across the Kokoda Trail the combined income of all the subsistence villages was estimated to be around K60,000 – we have come a long way together.
Developed community market gardens at Sogeri and Iaowari High School and Sogeri National High School
Built a Community Centre at Abuari
Assisted in the building of a TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital
Engaged a full-time agricultural graduate to provide assistance to school and villagers on the Sogeri Plateau
Developed a Commercial Fish Farm at Iaowari High School
Donated 4000 library books to Port Moresby Grammar School
Major Charlie Lynn’s work in establishing the Kokoda trekking industry was recognised in 2015 when he was honoured with his induction as an Officer of the Logohu by the PNG Government in their New Years’ Honours List ‘for service to the bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia and especially in the development of the Kokoda Trail and its honoured place in the history of both nations’ over the past 25 years.
More than $5 million has been hijacked from Kokoda trekkers by unaccountable Australian and PNG bureaucrats over the past decade. This money had been paid in good faith to meet their basic needs in the form of adequate campsites and a safe trail. The fees were also meant to provide for shared community benefits for villagers along the trail.
However, since Australian Government officials assumed control of the emerging Kokoda trekking industry in 2008 not a single dollar has been spent to improve campsites, toilets or management systems to meet the needs of the trekkers. Nobody knows where the money has gone because the bureaucrats involved have never produced an audited financial report. Nobody knows what they do because they don’t produce newsletters or answer emails. Not a single resolution from a forum has ever been actioned. Not a single workshop has been conducted at village level to see how the custodians of the land across the trail could benefit from the trekking industry.
In the meantime local PNG carriers continue to be
overloaded, underpaid and poorly equipped. Local campsite owners are
continually short-changed while villagers have been reduced to the status of
spectators to a passing parade of trekkers.
The recent revelation that the KTA donated K350,000 to KTF, an Australian NGO, to distribute cash disbursements to families on and off the Kokoda Trail is a serious misuse of trek fees.
The KTA was not established to support Australian NGOs’.
It was established in 2004 to provide for the development of campsites along the trail and to ensure local villagers received their fair share of benefits from the emerging trekking industry.
I know this because I initiated the idea and Adventure Kokoda funded its establishment with an advance of K25,000 to allow it to operate until trek fees started to flow.
Sir Peter Barter, Minister for Inter-Government Relations and Provincial and Local-level Government at the time acknowledged this when he wrote:
“Without Charlie Lynn’s dedication to the people of the Kokoda Trail, and Papua New Guinea in general, and his assistance in early negotiations in the establishment of the Authority, the establishment of the Kokoda Track Authority and its future plans for assisting the sustainability of the Kokoda Track Tourism Strategy and its heritage, there would be no special purposes authority – it would still be sitting in limbo.”
The KTA worked well for the first few years when it was run as a PNG enterprise by a former Kiap, Warren Bartlett. Trekker numbers increased rapidly by 255% from 1584 trekkers in 2004 to 5621 in 2008.
Since the Australian Government assumed control of the industry trekker numbers have declined by 46% and are now averaging a little over 3000 per year.
If we use 2008 as a benchmark this represents an annual loss of some K10 million for tourism in PNG and the loss of 4500 part-time jobs for guides and carriers each year.
The bureaucratic management system introduced by the Australian Government is now so dysfunctional the PNG Prime Minister ordered a review. (more…)