- Protesting landowners want the PNG Government to review its joint funding agreement with Australia
- They say the current arrangement is not translating into benefits for landowners
- The chief executiv of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority says the blockade is likely to be lifted by March
A group of landowners want the Government to review the Kokoda Initiative, a joint funding agreement with Australia, and give them money it promised for certain projects.
They have blocked the access road to the start of the track at Owers Corner.
Spokesman James Enage said the group was protesting because Government funding was not translating into benefits for landowners.
"Parents here are struggling for school fees," he said.
"In some of the health centres that are built along the Kokoda Track there are no health workers, there is no medicine."
Mr Enage said the landowner group had presented the Government with a list of recommendations that needed to be acted upon before the blockade would be lifted.
"Until the Government provides a response that addresses those and until the current Government comes and talks to us and we all reach an amicable solution, then this will reopen," he said.
Mr Enage was previously the chief executive officer of the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), the management agency which oversees trekking company licences and trekker permits.
The PNG Government recently announced it was reviewing the KTA, after sustained criticism from tour operators about poor management of the track and trekking.
But Mr Enage denied the landowner action was linked to that.
"The Kokoda Track [Authority] review is actually a separate issue altogether," he said.
The PNG Government is holding a meeting to discuss the landowner's demands.
The chief executive of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority, Jerry Agus, said he was confident the blockade would be lifted before the start of the trekking season, in March.
"This is an issue that PNG Government agencies will deal with and we are hoping that we can sort this issue out very quickly," he said.
The president of the Kokoda Tour Operators Association, Sue Fitcher, agreed.
"Our information is that key stakeholders and government agencies are working with landowners to resolve their concerns," she said.
"Our overall concern is protecting and presenting this unique place and its people to the world at the highest possible standards."
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which overseeing funding for Kokoda Track initiatives, defended its aid.
"Australia has delivered tangible and lasting benefits to track communities through the Kokoda Initiative, including delivering road upgrades, health services, classrooms and water and sanitation facilities," it said in a statement.
The department said it was monitoring the blockade situation and urged people with trekking bookings to check arrangements with their tour companies.
"The current advice on the Smartraveller website recommends trekkers confirm that their trekking company has contingency plans in place, should the track be blocked," the department said.