The Covid-19 pause provides PNG a timely opportunity to recalibrate their management of the Kokoda Trail and work towards developing it as a World class destination based on our shared wartime heritage.
We had been leading treks across the Kokoda Trail for 17 years before the Australian Government assumed control of the management of the emerging trekking industry in 2009.
Since then it has been managed as an environmental asset by a environmental officials – rather than as a commercial wartime heritage-tourism asset.
As a result – after 10 years in situ and the expenditure of more than $50 million of aid funding trekker number have declined by more than 40%.
There is not a single management protocol in place; and not a single dollar has been invested in a campsite, toilet or commemorative memorial along the trail.
It is now clear that the name ‘Kokoda‘ has been hijacked by Government officials to support their social-environmental agenda in PNG at the expense of the commemoration of our shared wartime heritage along the trail.
Their adopted name, ‘Kokoda Initiative‘ is a deceptive contradiction that acts to disguise their social-environmental agenda.
Their PNG base allows them to avoid normal oversight procedures that apply in Australia. Criticism is easily deflected with the trite comment that ‘this is what PNG wants!’.
They therefore have no obligation to respond to written concerns; do not acknowledge suggestions for meeting the needs of local communities or trekkers; and do not acknowledge the need to properly honour our shared wartime heritage along the trail.
Covid-19 has exposed the fallacy of their Kokoda policy which is based on the principle of ‘boomerang aid‘. Environmental officials have now boomeranged back to the safety of their homes in Australia without leaving anything in the bank for the people they were supposed to help over the past decade – at taxpayers expense!
Villagers along the trail have returned to subsistence farming without any form of welfare support or economic opportunity.
We have submitted the following blogs, papers, submissions and recommendations over the past 14 years – all have been ignored.
There is some irony in the fact that it might take a pandemic to provide the correction we need to have to protect our shared wartime heritage along the Kokoda Trail and further afield – and to provide sustainable economic future for the landowner communities.
Kokoda Day: Honouring their Legacy
Kokoda: Stop the Bloody Rot on the Track
Kokoda Trail Naming Rights