8 Feb 2018

PNG PM intervenes in Kokoda trail dispute

4:49 pm on 8 February 2018

A tour operator in Papua New Guinea says the prime minister has sent a delegation to talk with landowners who have closed the Kokoda trail.

no caption

Photo: Adventure Kokoda / Charlie Lynn / Facebook

The popular walking track retraces the route of World War Two battles between Japanese and Australian forces assisted by locals dubbed the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Landowners blocked the Port Moresby end of the trail on Sunday reportedly demanding promised financial benefits.

The managing director of PNG Trekking Adventures, Pam Christie, said the landowners grievances needed to be addressed.

"I believe that the prime minister (Peter O'Neil) is sending some delegates up there this morning to have a round table discussion with the resource owners," said Ms Christie.

"They are requesting how that money has been allocated. I don't know whether it would go direct to the resource owners or whether it was to be for projects along the track."

Ms Christie said landowner rights needed to be respected as the Kokoda trail crossed their back yards.

The ABC reported landowner spokesman James Enage saying health centres built along the track had no workers or medicine and that parents were struggling to pay school fees.

Strangely, the office of the Kokoda Track Authority, which oversees companies using the trail, said Mr Enage was still its chief executive.

He could not be reached for comment.

Ms Christie said education and healthcare services for communities along the trail were better than in other parts of PNG where her company operated.

She said she thought landowners might have been promised sustainable community projects that had not eventuated.

As tourists are not advised to attempt the trail until the end of the rainy season in May, Ms Christie said she was pleased landowners had raised their concerns now.

She said she was still taking bookings from tourists wanting to walk the trail this year.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs