This recommended action plan was submitted to the PNG Kokoda Track Authority in February 2018. The document was not acknowledged and no action was taken,

Based on the number of trekkers in 2017 Kokoda is a K45 million industry.

In 2017 village communities along the Kokoda Trail did not receive any shared benefits due to the management dysfunction of the Kokoda Track Authority.

The 2018 trekking season is due to start in 8 weeks’ time. There is therefore a need for urgent action to be taken if local communities are to receive their fair share of benefits and the welfare of the guides and carriers who are the backbone of the industry is to be protected.

The following plan can be implemented immediately if those in a leadership position are prepared to make a decision in favour of their people and the future of the Kokoda trekking industry.

Recommended Action Required

  1. Suspend the current ‘Kokoda Track Authority’;
  2. Appoint an interim administrator with a small secretariat to manage the 2018 Kokoda trekking season (Administrator to be funded by the Kokoda Initiative with the secretariat funded from trek fees); and
  3. Appoint a Chief Trek Ranger to supervise the urgent work required to make the trail safe in time for the start of the 2018 trekking season in mid-April 2018. The Chief Trek Ranger to be funded by the Kokoda Initiative – should be familiar with the Kokoda Trail; be fluent in Tok Pisin; be respected by local leaders; and have advanced qualifications in Remote Area First Aid.

Task Priorities

  1. Develop a management database system
    A standard ACT database can be quickly adapted to serve the needs of the interim manager.
  2. Develop a working website linked to the database system
    An interactive management website and blog is essential for effective communication between management, trek operators, relevant government agencies and community representatives.
  3. Develop a trek operator trek itinerary management system
    An essential task to provide early warning of arrival of trek groups for villagers so they can prepare stalls to sell fresh fruit, food and local artefacts. Communication would be via the existing VHF network across the trail.
  4. Develop a campsite booking system
    Essential for avoiding double-bookings and the resulting arguments and conflicts that have happened in the past.
  5. Develop an interim trail ranger system under the guidance of the Chief Trek Ranger
    Essential for repairing local bridges and making the trail safe prior to the commencement of the 2018 trekking season in mid-April.
  6. Review the licensing requirements for Australian Kokoda tour operators
    Conduct due diligence checks to ensure all trek operators have current registered companies; Public Liability Insurance policies, satphones, and VHF radios.

  7. End the 50 percent student discount on trek fees for Australian students
    Based on 2017 trekker numbers of 3267 this will provide an additional income of K70,000
  8. End the $50 ‘Marketing Levy’ introduced in 2014
    Based on 2017 trekker numbers of 3267 this will reduce income from K1,143,450 to K980,100.
  9. Introduce a K100 Community Development Levy
    Based on 2017 trekker numbers of 3267 this will increase income by K326,700
  10. Introduce a K100 Trail Maintenance Levy
    Based on 2017 trekker numbers of 3267 this will increase income by K3267,700
  11. Introduce a K2500 trek fees for one-off Australian charities who use the Kokoda Trail for fundraising. Based on a conservative figure of just 100 charity trekkers per year this would increase income by K250,000
  12. Introduce a K5000 trek fee for professional charities that use the Kokoda Trail for fundraising
    Based in a conservative figure of 200 professional charity trekkers per year this would increase income by K1 million.
  13. Introduce mandatory welfare standards for guides and porters[1]
    Introduce a mandatory maximum weight of 18 kg per porter and the requirement for trek operators to provide a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and trek uniform for the guides and carriers they engage.

Summary of Income

The 2017 income for the KTA from trek fees was K1,073,450 (3267 trekkers at K350 less the 50 per cent student discount fee of K70,000).

The potential income for 2018 based on the 2017 trekker numbers is:

1. Trek Fees (3267 X K300) K980,100
2. Community Development Levy (3267 X K100) K326,700
3. Trail Maintenance Levy (3267 X K100) K326,700
4. Australian Charity Levy (K2500 X 100) K250,000
5. Professional Charity Levy (K5000 X 200) K1,000,000
              Total Income K2,883,500

This additional income would allow for:

1 Income for office wages, rent and admin K980,000
2 Income for Community Development[2] (Community Development Levy/Charity Levies) K1,576,700
3 Income for Trail Maintenance[3] K327,700

Can Australian Tour Operators Afford a Trek Fee of K500?

The cost of trekking Kokoda for Australian trekkers is approximately K14,000 per person. A trek fee of K500 represents just 3.5% which is easily affordable.

Can Australian Professional Australian Charities afford a Charity Levy?

A Google search will reveal that there is a high number of charities from around Australia that have raised more than K1 million from using the Kokoda Trail for fundraising activities. There is no record of any donations to PNG charities from these activities.

The Kokoda Challenge is a multi-million dollar charity that runs programs for young people on the Gold Coast in Queensland. It has property holdings  in excess of $1 million. The original intent for the Kokoda Challenge was to provide philanthropic support to young people but the concept was hijacked and has now provided a lucrative income stream for the Board of the organization. There is no record of any funds being donated to PNG charities.

Intrepid Travel is a professional charity who have raised almost K4 million for Australian charities in recent years. There is no record of any funds being allocated to PNG charities

[1] The Kokoda Trail by Stuart Hawthorne. P193. On of Dr Vernan’s first actions was to have the carriers’ maximum load officially reduced from 50lbs (23 kilograms) transferred from pre-war days, to 40lbs (18 kilograms).

[2] Income from Community Development Levy to be invested into a Trust Account for development in agriculture, health and education.

[3] Income for Trail Maintenance to be maintained in a Trust Account for payment to local landowner groups to maintain the trail each year.