By KARI TOTONA
TOUR guides from the Kokoda Track Authorities (KTA) have all the reasons to smile after receiving a K5,000 commitment from the Culture and Tourism Minister Charles Abel last Friday.
Mr Abel, when handing over the cheque at his ministerial office in Port Moresby, said the guides had issues that needed to be voiced and his commitment to the newly-established association ‘Kokoda Track Guides and Potters Association’ was an important boost for the tourism industry in PNG.
He said his trek last year was an eye opener as he saw the need for the guides to be assured because of the dangerous terrains along the track.
“This association will help the boys organised themselves and have a unified voice for their rights,” he said.
He said it was an honour to be assisting the locals in the formation of the association and the funding would go a long way in keeping the standard of their work towards the industry.
“They will be giving their report back to me once they have their programme in place,” Mr Abel said.
Meanwhile, association chairman Philip Gobila said there were eight wards in the area and they plan to have them all registered in the association.
They include the Sogeri valley, lower and upper Mt Koiari, lower and upper Biage, Kokoda station, non-Koiarians and the council representatives.
Mr Gobila said: “We want to let all these people know that we have an association that will cater for our needs and voice our opinion on issues that concern our job on the track.
“We won’t force them to join but come as individuals and support us to have our rights be heard.”
He thanked the minister for the gesture, adding that he has kept to his words “and now we have what we want”.
“We have struggled for three years bumping brick walls and it is up to us now to pick up from where the good minister has left us with.
“We only hope that we will be able to achieve what we have in plan for this association and for our people back at home,” he said.
It is understood that the track will be opened next month and urged everyone to register and be a member of the association.