THE famous Kokoda Track has always had a special historic place for Australians and not Papua New Guineans, especially the people of Koiari.
My reasons for say this are due to the following reasons.
Walking the track and seeing the economic and infrastructural conditions of the track communities is disappointing.
This due to the fact that an average of 4000 Australian tourists walk the track annually, mostly under Australian tour companies.
Where is all the money they are supposed to inject into the local communities going to?
Only the porters see that money – not everyone including women and children.
A few guest house owners get around K200 for the accommodation they provide, sometimes once in a year.
Is Kokoda tTack really iconic to PNG?
Secondly, all activities done along the track are done by Australians.
Be it school and health infrastructure renovation, track regeneration, monumental upkeep, and the list goes on.
They pay themselves to do those works so that their aid money goes back to Australia.
They do not trust the local people to work with or to do the work.
They only use the name Kokoda to tell everyone they are doing something.
The landowners have a mouthpiece – a constitutionally amended office to provide for the needs and services of the local communities from Depo in Central to Kokoda Station in Northern.
That is Kokoda Track Authority.
There are now many different organisations set up everywhere by everybody to suit their needs.
Organisations like the Kokoda Initiative and the C and Environment Protection Authority (Cepa) talk a lot about Kokoda Track and its issues.
What have they really done for the people along the track?
Thirdly, Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has not been fully supported by the Australian and PNG governments.
The reasons being that Australians don’t trust and support local organisations to use their money.
Lastly, the local people will not always be like their grannies –carry bags for white people.
They would be better off if there is a mine along the track.
People would like to travel on vehicles to their villages with more store goods, enjoy the privileges of economic activities at home.
Tourism is not providing for everyone.
KTA has not been fully supported financially, therefore, cannot be blamed for not effectively trickling the benefits down to everyone in the village.
The promise was made by the governments to moot the mining and fund the people on the corridor.
What happened to the promise?
Where is the money?
We should not be side-tracking the fact that people want change.
Just because someone wants to protect his father’s history and halt another’s development, we should follow the former.