Kokoda Track Authority – Shonky and Secretive!

In 2008 Adventure Kokoda was the only trekking company out of 37 licensed trek operators to pay all of their trek fees in full and in advance – something we are very proud of.

A discreet audit revealed that operators from the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association tried to sneak a total of 770 trekkers across the trail without paying trek fees – so much for their fake respect for subsistence villagers along the trail!

The Australian CEO then did a secret deal with each one of them which resulted in them all receiving discounts from what they owed. As a result Adventure Kokoda had to wear a heavy financial penalty for doing the right thing.

The following ‘Freedom of Information‘ request to the Australian Government cost us more than a $1000 which turned out to be the most expensive 7 sheets of paper we have ever purchased!

So much for transparency – and they wonder why nobody trusts them!!

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Wayne Wetherall – Kokoda Spirit Struck Out

A long running defamation case brought against The Hon Charlie Lynn OAM OL and Adventure Kokoda by Wayne Wetherall and his trekking company, Kokoda Spirit, was struck out in the Maroochydore District Court last Friday.

The case involved false claims made by Wetherall and plagiarism of the Adventure Kokoda website by Kokoda Spirit.

The court found that Kokoda Spirit and Wetherall had failed to prosecute their claims for defamation against Adventure Kokoda and Charlie Lynn within a reasonable time.

They had tried to blame their solicitor but the court found that they were to blame as well as the solicitor. In throwing out their claims, the court declined to make a finding that Kokoda Spirit and Wetherall had established reasonable prospects of success in their suits for defamation.

Charlie Lynn and Adventure Kokoda were awarded their costs of the 7 year proceeding to be paid by Wayne Wetherall and Kokoda Spirit.

 

Why does PNG tolerate ‘blackbirding’ on Kokoda?

Recent articles on the history of ‘blackbirding’ in the Pacific should serve to shine the spotlight on the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) whose member lead treks across the Kokoda Trail.

The most abhorrent practice condoned by many KTOA members is the ‘student discount’ which allows them to claim a 50 per cent discount for their trek fees.  This effectively means that subsistence villagers along the trail have to subsidise wealthy Australian private school students who trek with them. One can only hope that these school are unaware that they are participating in a modern adaption of blackbirding.

Of more concern is the fact that PNG leaders responsible for the welfare of their people along the trail allow themselves to be bullied into accepting such a practice by the KTOA.

Following is a snapshot of villagers along the trail who are being forced to subsidise wealthy Australian private school students. Why? (more…)

Blackbirders on Kokoda – BeAware

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.

They are slick and hard to detect. They have established their own ‘Kokoda Tour Operators Association’ to disguise their exploitation and provide a form of self-legitimacy. Their websites boast of emotive ‘passion for our diggers’ amid claims to be ‘historians – explorers – adventurers’ even through there is no prior record of their commitment to these ideals through previous active service or support to veterans’ organizations.

It seems more than coincidence that their faux passion happened to coincide with the opportunity to make a dollar out of it. (more…)

Time for Ms Sue Fitcher to respond to Spectator Magazine re Battle for Kokoda

Editor’s note: After publishing the Charlie Lynn article Losing Kokoda on May 14, we received a letter in response from Sue Fitcher, president of the Kokoda Tour Operators Association. Ms Fitcher did not respond to an offer from Flat White to author an item in reply, so we are publishing her correspondence in the interest of fairness, along with a follow-up comment from Charlie.

Sue Fitcher:
Do you have any sort of fact checker?

I write after reading an article published by and in my role as President of the Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA), an organisation representing just under 70 per cent of the Kokoda trekking industry.

My first question is, do you have any sort of fact checker on articles put to you before you publish? This is an article big on allegation and extremely short on substance. Where are the examples, where is the verification?

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Losing Kokoda – The Spectator Magazine

‘Blackbirding’ was a term given to the coercion of native people from Papua New Guinea to work as cheap labour in Queensland’s sugar plantations in the latter part of the nineteenth century. When the extent of the exploitation became known it was outlawed as a form of slavery.

The ‘resource curse’ refers to the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources.

Over the past decade 45,000 Australians from all walks of life have trekked across the Kokoda Trail. Their reasons are many and varied but the wartime significance combined with a sense of adventure in the land of the unexpected is the most compelling motivation.

Kokoda has now surpassed Gallipoli as a priority bucket list item.

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