The Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) is a shameless Australian lobby group established to cash in on the Kokoda trekking industry and protect their business interests in Papua New Guinea

They operate illegally in PNG as all but one of their 11 members are not registered as a ‘Foreign Enterprise’ in PNG in accordance with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) Act. The one that is registered has not filed and Annual Return as required by the Act for more than a decade.

This allows them to effectively avoid their legal and financial responsibilities in PNG.

  • a maximum weight of 18 kg be imposed for guides and porters,
  • a minimum rate of K70 per day plus a K70 bonus at the end of each trek,
  • the issue of a trek uniform comprising a cap, shirt and shorts printed with the company’s name and logo, and
  • the issue of a zippered sleeping bag and mat.

Their call for a reduction of the maximum weight was motivated by the death of one of their own porters on the second day of his trek earlier in the month. According to the KTA Ranger who had weighed the packs the day before his pack came in at 28 kg. The Ranger directed that the weight be redistributed however he was informed that as soon as the trek group was out of sight the weight was put back in the original packs.

The Governor of Oro Province called for an investigation into the matter in the PNG National newspaper. The Australian operator, who was also the President of the KTOA, responded aggressively by accusing the KTA Ranger of ‘doctoring the books‘. The KTA yielded to the pressure and failed to investigate the matter despite a finding by the local Police Sergeant that:

It is evident that the group on this particular trip . . . engaged by . . . (KTOA tour operator) . . . were all overloaded in breach to Code of Conduct stipulated under this code’.

  • ‘The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) approved maximum weight for Carriers is 22.5kgs.
  • ‘The maximum weight is less than the International Porter code and is strictly enforced by our member companies. Indeed, most KTOA Carriers carry less than that, the majority between 8 – 20kgs.
  • ‘Generally, the weight of a Carrier’s pack at the commencement of their trek will be 20kgs or under. As the trek progresses, weights reduce due to the consumption of food. Pack weights are re distributed daily resulting in a daily reduction of a minimum of 1 kg each day.
  • ‘Often, operators will have a food re-supply mid-trek. This will bring pack weights up again for one day, before reducing again on a daily basis. At no time are our Carrier’s pack weights over the maximum allowable, and are usually significantly lighter than the maximum.
  • ‘Our Carriers are not subjected to carrying heavy weights over the whole journey but have their packs lightened, redistributed and balanced so by the end of the trek their pack weights are down to 8-12kgs.
  • ‘We ensure our Carriers packs are appropriately packed and balanced. It is not appropriate for Carriers to carry items by hand as this can become a safety issue.’

Under the current KTOA-KTA alliance the exploitations of guides, porters and villagers is destined to continue as they have effectively been ‘sold-out’ by their own management.

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