Kokoda tourism has the potential to generate an additional K2.6 million per year with the imposition of a Trail Maintenance Levy; a Community Development Levey; a Charity Levy; a Welfare Levy; a levy for significant sites; and the establishment of a Philanthropic Trust.

Villagers have the potential to earn an additional K2 million in the provision of services to meet the needs of trekkers.

This will not happen until the PNG Government reclaims ownership of the Trail from the DFAT Kokoda Initiative by transferring responsibility for its management from the Conservation Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) to the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA).

The longer they take to execute the transfer the longer traditional landowner communities across the Kokoda Trail will have to wait to realise their potential of earning up to K4.7 million in additional income for themselves.

The PNG Governmet should keep in mind that after more than a decade in charge Australian officials have failed to put a single management system in place. For example:

  • It is still not possible to book a campsite;
  • There is not a single toilet that meets the most basic of hygiene standards;
  • Sections of the Trail are dangerously unsafe;
  • No action has been taken to restore battlesites that enhance the value of the pilgrimage for the 56,000 Australians who have trekked across it;
  • No financial reports have ever been published;
  • No village-based workshops have ever been conducted;
  • No micro-business initiatives have been introduced to assist villagers to earn additional income from trekkers; and
  • Management has continued to turn a blind eye to the proliferation of illegal tour companies.

In any other jurisdiction the management would be placed into receivership.

But this is PNG and Australian environment officials responsible for the mismanagement of our most significant wartime heritage site operate in a parallel universe as an unaccountable law unto themselves!

The incompetence and corruption that has evolved is worthy of a Senate Inquiry due to the waste and misuse of more than $60 million in aid-funding for the DFAT Kokoda Initiative.

Australia’s insistence that the Kokoda Trail be managed as a socio-environmental bureaucracy as opposed to a commercial tourism enterprise is denying traditional landowner communities their right to a sustainable economic future.

Their recent attempt to sneak a Bill into the PNG Parliament which would see the Kokoda Trail forever managed by the PNG Conservation Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) at the expense of pilgrimage tourism belled the cat on their clandestine agenda.

An analysis of their proposed Bill can be accessed on this link: Environment Bill for Kokoda – A Suicide Note for Pilgrimage Tourism

If passed, the Bill will consign traditional landowners across the Kokoda Trail to a future of subsistence living and aid-dependency.

The only hope for the Kokoda Trail to realize its potential as a world-class tourism destination for the economic benefit of traditional landowner communities now rests with the PNG Government in reclaiming ownership of its destiny from the DFAT Kokoda Initiative.

A road map to a sustainable economic future for Kokoda Tourism is outlined in this paper.