The Australian-funded Kokoda Initiative should be banned from the Kokoda Trail.
Their latest propaganda exercise to “increase safety along Kokoda Track” is a farce and another example of their ignorance of the needs of trekkers.
It is an insult to the Kokoda communities along the trail who could complete the task at a small fraction of the cost.
Local guides and carriers have escorted thousands of trekkers safely across the trail in all weather conditions over the past 20 years.
They have built bridges, cleared obstacles, cut alternative tracks to bypass landslides and formed human-chains to guide their trekkers through rough spots.
Trekkers are in awe of their knowledge, bush-skills, teamwork and instinctive care for their safety.
They have emerged as PNG’s best international ambassadors.
Trekkers write glowingly of their dedication, their cheerful personalities, and their mastery of the environment.
Upon their return to Australia and elsewhere, they praise local guides on social media platforms and in presentations to schools, conferences and corporate boardrooms.
Unfortunately, that is something officials from the Kokoda Track Authority and Kokoda Initiative would never understand because they have never got off their backsides to trek and find out how good the PNG guides and carriers are.
They have no idea of the basic needs of their paying customers i.e. trekkers as they prefer to hibernate in air-conditioned offices developing “thought-bubbles” such as this one.
Communities had no source of income for the past year due to the Covid-19.
They could be employed to “make the trail safe” because they know it intimately and they know where trekkers feel insecure.
This knowledge is not known to the Australian defence force (ADF), PNG defence force (PNGDF), Queensland Rangers, Port Moresby-based officials or expatriate consultants who operate in a parallel universe from Port Moresby.
There is a constructive role for the ADF and PNGDF, but it is not related to doing what locals were doing for centuries to ensure trekkers walk safely between villages.
They could be employed to research the various battle sites along the trail, restore the weapon pits and provide signage to explain the layout of each position.
They should not be engaged to usurp employment opportunities for local villagers.
It’s time for the KTA to take a stand and stop allowing Kokoda Initiative officials to treat villagers along the Trail as bush kanakas.
The KTA was established to support them – not to betray them.
Major Charlie Lynn OAM OL,
99 treks over 29 years