19 Dec 2006

Kokoda Track in PNG could be shut down by landowners who want government funding

7:22 pm on 19 December 2006

In Papua New Guinea disgruntled landowners are threatening to close the popular Kokoda track to tourists.

The landowners want a bigger slice of trekking fees for community projects along the track over the Owen Stanley ranges, where more than 600 Australian soldiers died during World War II.

They are unhappy that the PNG government is not helping to fund the Kokoda Track Authority, or KTA, which was established three years ago to promote trekking and development projects.

The number of trekkers taking on Kokoda during the walking season has jumped more than 50 per cent yearly, with about 3,750 walkers making the journey this year.

The KTA receives funding from trekking fees but half goes in administrative costs and promised government funding channelled through provincial authorities has failed to materialise.

The KTA has asked the government for an ex gratia payment of around 200 thousand US dollars for community projects along the track.

Finance minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu has told them there are no surplus funds available but has suggested they make submissions to cabinet for funding next year.