Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Condolence to families of Australian trekkers

The management committee of the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) and the management of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority pass on their heartfelt condolences to the families of the two trekkers who have tragically died on the Kokoda Track in the past week.

“Two young people to be lost far from home must be especially difficult” they said in a joint statement.

The KTA and PNG TPA respect the family’s wishes for privacy at this time and won’t discuss the individual circumstances.

Since 2001 nearly 20,000 trekkers have walked the Kokoda Track, increasing from less than 100 permitted trekkers in 2001 to more than 5,600 in 2008.

 This season there have been 20 tour operators guiding trekkers along the Kokoda Track,  leading tours from both the Owers Corner and Kokoda trail heads.

“These recent tragic incidents are rare with only two other trekking deaths over the past eight years. People thinking of undertaking the trek should be reassured that commercial tour operators working on the Kokoda Track are highly-professional with longstanding experience and expertise. They are also asked to commit to observing a code of conduct,” they said.

Walking the Kokoda Track is a physically and mentally challenging activity that requires significant preparation and planning. The Track travels through remote and rugged terrain closely following the war time route of the Australian forces defending Port Moresby, and removing a threat to the Australian people. Prospective trekkers should undertake a planned and well-timed training regime to prepare them for the adventure and tour operators can assist in designing this program. The trek should not be undertaken without full medical insurance and a clear understanding the challenging experience ahead of them

The KTA and PNG TPA management are also working on set guidelines which will be implemented shortly for all prospective trekkers to undertake compulsory training and seek proper medical clearance from each of their respective doctors before they walk the track.

“We hope that this will lead to us regulating the track in the long term,” they said.

“The experience is profound, even life changing for some, where trekkers can gain an insight to the courage and hardships of the Australian soldiers and the Papuan New Guinean people who supported them . Trekkers are challenged personally by the experience and gain a better understanding of themselves and discover a new found strength to their own character.”

A highlight of the experience for many is meeting and talking with the villagers along the Track. The Track links a series of villages and most nights are spent within or alongside a village in either a campsite or a guesthouse providing opportunities to engage with the local communities.

“The trekking industry makes a significant contribution to the people living along the Track with wages for porters and guides, food and lodging. The trek permit fees are collected by the KTA and used to maintain the Track and distributed to local communities.” said KTA chief executive officer Rod Hillman.

This season a draft Code of Conduct is being trialed by tour operators to reinforce the quality of the experience for trekkers. The code of conduct addresses issues such as:

  • Adherence to Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) rules, guidelines and procedures;
  • Promotion of sustainable tourism on the Kokoda Track;
  • Promotion of the unique heritage of the area, especially its military history, environmental and cultural values;
  • Promotion of responsible tourist behaviour;
  • Minimising impacts on the natural environment through best practice;
  • Supporting local communities;
  • Promoting excellence;
  • Duty of care to clients; and
  • Exercising appropriate duty of care to staff.


For more information contact: Mr Rod Hillman, CEO, Kokoda Track Authority,  Tel: + (675) 3236165



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