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01 June 2018

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I am a founding member of the KTOA my company is Kokoda Historical.

The original story is a beat up, all of the members of the KTOA work very hard in the industry to make sure the porters and guides are looked after.

Just on 70% of the industry is made up of KTOA members and you know the reality is that if we did not care, exploitation would be an issue. However, it is not.

All of the guides and porters that work for the major companies are treated with the upmost of care and respect. In addition the contribution made to the communities along the Kokoda Track by trekking companies has had only a positive outcome.

Health initiatives, school fees and funding not to mention the income and employment that has been generated are all positive things for people living within the Kokoda communities.

I have trekked many other places in PNG such as the Black Cat Track, Lark Force in Rabaul, Shaggy Ridge in Lae, to name but a few. In other places only a few Australians trek each year, compare these villages to those that live along the Kokoda Track, what a difference has been made on Kokoda!

Perhaps one should know what the real meaning of blackbirding is before making such sensationalist statements. In fact by labelling the trekking industry on Kokoda as blackbirding you actually take away from the true meaning of the term and it is an injustice to the memory of the many Melanesian people that were forced to create Australia's sugarcane industry.

Oh and for the record the student fee, which I have never used despite taking dozens of school groups, was abolished by the KTA sometime ago.

The real issue is the old guard needs to stand aside for the new. I am 39, Kokoda and the memory of the those who served and those who paid the ultimate price, is something I have dedicated my life to. I take issue with those who use the memory of our forbears for cheap political shots.

In closing I have little interest in what either the governments of PNG or Australia do or do not do. I just get on with looking after my Papuan cobbers and taking my fellow Australians on a pilgrimage across sacred ground.

I would suggest Soc may be conflicted as he has an association with Ms Fitcher's company as its historian and most likely unable or unwilling to comment.

I know who I believe ...

It would be interesting if comments could be obtained from Soc Kienzle himself.

Apart from being one of Bert Kienzle's sons he ran Komplete Kokoda
Trekking for a number of years.

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