29 Apr 2009

PNG PM highlights Kokoda Track risks

1:56 pm on 29 April 2009

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister has warned of the difficulty of walking the famous Kokoda Track, following the deaths of two Australians earlier this month.

But Sir Michael Somare, who is in Australia to meet with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, did not address calls for a crackdown on unscrupulous trekking companies.

The deaths of the Australians, in separate incidents this month, sparked calls for the PNG government to regulate the trekking industry centred on the 96km route through the Owen Stanley Range.

The track has become a popular pilgrimage site for Australians wanting to honour the Australians who fought and died there during World War II.

It's now PNG's biggest tourist drawcard, attracting an estimated 7,000 walkers each year.

But Aidan Grimes, the chairman of the Kokoda Ethics Committee, has said some fly-by-night companies skimp on safety, taking large groups across the range and failing to check trekkers' fitness levels.

Sir Michael expressed his sympathy over the deaths but says the walkers need to be fit.