Ownership of the naming rights of the Kokoda Trail has been contested in Australia in recent...Read More
Category: KOKODA TOUR OPERATORS ASSOCIATION (KTOA)
‘Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte’ wrote Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and physicist in 1627. ‘I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter’ is the English translation
Pascal was trying to explain that his letter was longer than it needed to be, because he hadn’t worked out the correct answer.
The Kokoda Tour Operators Association used a similar approach in their latest 620 word diatribe to justify the ongoing exploitation of local PNG porters they engage.
Buried amongst a plethora of motherhood statements is the admission that they will continue to exploit their porters by overloading them.
What part of the fact that a 22.5 kg backpack is too heavy for porters to have to lug across difficult, muddy, mountainous terrain doesn’t the KTOA get?Read More
The welfare of PNG guides and carriers has been a contentious subject for some years however the recent death of a carrier who was allegedly overloaded by an Australian trek operator has brought the issue of their exploitation to to the forefront of the debate.
A recent forum organised by the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) in Brisbane resulted in the CEO of PNG Tourism calling for a response to the issues that were raised – but could not be properly addressed due to agenda/time constraints.
Following is the submission by Adventure Kokoda on the issue of welfare for PNG guides and carriers engaged in the Kokoda Trekking Industry:
This response to the draft Minutes of the KTA Forum conducted in Brisbane on 28 November 2018 is based on the collective views of Adventure Kokoda trek leaders who have a combined total of 130 years professional army experience and who have led more than 520 expeditions across the trail over the past 27 years. Our ‘experience’ in protecting the welfare of our local guides and carriers is in line with the conclusions reached by Dr Geoffrey Vernon, Regimental Medical Officer for the 39th Battalion during the Kokoda campaign.
The KTA Forum was conducted at short notice with insufficient time to prepare detailed submissions for discussion. As it transpired it was more of a briefing session. No Notices of Motions were provided, none were moved and the only substantive decision taken was to have another forum in May 2019!
The Minutes of the previous Tour Operators Forum held in Cairns on 14-15 November were not tabled nor discussed in accordance with normal protocols. These minutes have now been outstanding for more than a year and the fact that they have never been produced after trek operators went to considerable expense to attend is indicative of either negligent administration or a cover-up of some sort.
Our Adventure Kokoda response to the forum will be in two parts.
Part 1 will address the most important issue that can no longer be postponed because it concerns the welfare protection of the local guides and carriers for the 2019 trekking season..
Part 2 will address the other issues presented at the forum and will be submitted early in the New Year.
That’s not exactly what they said but the Australian based Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) submission to a review of the PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) ridiculed a suggestion that they should have to provide for the welfare of their guides and carriers. This could create an ‘entitlement mentality’ they wailed!
What is really required, according to the KTOA, is a combination of ‘education – hard skills – and thought process’.
They don’t explain how they would ‘educate’ a subsistence villager to carry loads far heavier than the maximum allowed for their ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angel’ forebears in 1942 – or how they would ‘educate’ them to sleep on freezing, wet ground without a sleeping bag or mat in the upper reaches of the Owen Stanley Ranges – or how they would ‘educate’ their bodies to be physically sustained on packets of two-minute noodles.
The KTOA assertion that ‘for successful commerce, all parties must bring something to the table – there cannot be a hand out mentality’ is reminiscent of a colonial blackbirder addressing a native work-party in the late 19th Century.
Whilst their submission acknowledges ‘the legitimate right of landowners to participate in and benefit from the Kokoda Track tourism experience’ they maintain that ‘this right needs to be translated to viable means by which this can happen; education and mentoring is needed to develop the skillsets required and the appreciation that self-sustainable change and development requires a contribution from oneself’.
WTF! This surely takes patronising arrogance to a new level.Read More
School holidays offer great opportunities for Australian ‘blackbirders’ operating on the Kokoda Trail.
Blackbirding was a form of slavery which saw Papua New Guineans coerced into working as cheap labour on Queensland sugar plantations in the late 19th Century before it was outlawed.
However the practice has mutated into various forms since then and now involves shady operators who have cashed in on the Kokoda trekking industry over the past decade. Papua New Guinea is a governance free zone for blackbirders who are not subject to the same scrutiny they would receive in Australia.
The current dysfunction and debasement of the Kokoda Trail management authority provides them with free rein to promote themselves as legitimate. They are akin to a malarial parasite running through a quinine free bloodstream. There are no limits to the extent they can exploit local Papua New Guinean guides, carriers and villagers who live in a subsistence economy and are desperate for work.Read More
In a recent response to an article published in The Spectator magazine the President of the Kokoda Tour Operators Association, Sue Fitcher, wrote that ‘All KTOA businesses are run from Australia’.
This is the nub of the problem for the Kokoda Trekking Industry.
The current review of the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) should seek to understand why this s so because PNG will never realise its potential as a tourism destination if international operators have to run their businesses from their home countries.
The PNG trekking industry which started with so much promise in the late 1990s is now on its knees because of dysfunctional management and government indifference.
After PNG established a local management authority in 2003 trekker numbers surged by 423% from 1074 trekkers to 5621 in 2008. However since the Australian Government assumed control trekker numbers have crashed by 42% to 3267 in 2017 despite an expenditure of more than $50 million of Aid funding through the Kokoda Initiative.
The numbers indicate that something is seriously wrong.Read More
The Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) was established by a small group of Australian travel operators to protect their financial interests along the Kokoda Trail in PNG. The welfare of local PNG porters and villagers is...Read More
Recent reports regarding the discovery of Captain Sam Templeton’s body by a trek operator, Wayne Wetherall of Kokoda Spirit, were widely reported throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea. According to Wetherall a 90...Read More