Author: Charlie

Trekking to Hell and Back

OVERCOME by emotion Dr John de Courcy halts mid-sentence.  Lying almost flat, his head propped against the thatched wall of a smoke-filled hut in the remote ranges of Papua New Guinea, he tries to describe those who have influenced his life.  After a short pause, he continues without inhibition and his audience listens with empathy.  It’s the kind of exchange that only a collective experience – bordering on near hell – is likely to deliver.

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CHAPTER 12: Correspondence re Fraud Allegations against KTA Board Members

During the period 2004 – 2008 Kokoda tourism was managed by an expatriate CEO, Warren Bartlett, with a part-time office assistant.   Bartlett was a former Patrol Officer (Kiap). He had worked in PNG for 39 years – was a skilled Government administrator, was fluent in Tok Pisin, and had an empathetic understanding of the Melanesian Way.

The Kokoda Tourism Authority which was proclaimed in 2003 was required to be self-funded as neither the Australian nor PNG Governments were willing to provide any financial support.

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CHAPTER 10: A Discussion Paper on Kokoda Tourism

After the PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) was established by the Minister for Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs in 2004, the number of trekkers rose dramatically by 225 percent from 1584 in 2004 to 5146 in 2008.

At that stage neither Government was prepared to provide any financial support so the management was left to a former Australian Kiap, Warren Bartlett, on a salary of $11,000 (K25,000) with no office support (apart from a part-time assistant), and no allowances.

Mr. Bartlett was required to safeguard the funds collected for trek permits and assist villagers with the basics such as plastic toilet pots and portable ovens to help meet the demands of trekkers.

He also had to deal with increasing demands from more than 100 landowners, more than 50 tour companies, and various government officials at National, Provincial and Local Level.

But his greatest challenge was dealing with a Board of Directors which became increasingly corrupted as trek fee income escalated.

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