Friday, May 08, 2009

Concerns on closure of Kokoda Track by villagers

THE Kokoda Track Authority and the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority have expressed concern about the latest threats by villagers to close the Kokoda Track.

They said the actions of certain Kovelo villagers in placing barriers across the Kokoda Track in their village and charging K200 permit fees for trekkers to pass was uncalled for and villagers should cease their unnecessary actions immediately.

 “This is very disappointing as the KTA has convened a special Board for this coming Tuesday to specifically address the villagers concerns. The Chairman of the KTA, James Enage, will travel today to Kovelo to work with the Villagers to resolve this issue,” said Rod Hillman, chief executive KTA.

Mr Hillman said the KTA is now a new organisation that has learnt from previous mistakes. A new management committee has been established and new systems instigated to ensure the industry moves forward and the funds are fully accountable and distributed equitably. Trek fees are now collected efficiently by the KTA and are ready to be distributed to land owners and the community. Establishing a system to distribute the funds is proving a challenge and this is the main area of concern to all involved.

“The future of the Kokoda Track relies on everyone working together and providing an experience that trekkers will want to come to Papua New Guinea for. Taking drastic steps like this barricade can only hurt every village and everyone involved in the benefits gained from the trekkers. We are already seeing a significant drop in trekking numbers due to the global economic downturn, the recent deaths on the track and the continuing negative media stories. These actions can only further reduce trekking numbers on the track which will have an enormous impact on all the communities living there,” said Rod Hillman.

The Kokoda Track is PNG’s major tourism attraction and last year close to 6,000 trekkers walked the Kokoda Track bringing huge job opportunities including porters, guides, hotels, transport and food. Each trekker pays K200 to the KTA as a permit to walk the track and these funds are used to maintain the track and associated facilities provide payments to land owners and communities and to operate the KTA.

“I am sure common sense will prevail and the barricades will be removed so the people of Kovelo, the other villagers along the track and all the people who benefit from the trekkers can continue to reap the rewards of their work,” said Rod Hillman


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