A collection of Koiari landowners have blocked the pass at Kovelo Village at the Kokoda end of the 96km trail.

 

Kokoda-based Ori Kennia, a spokesman for the landowners, says they are not happy with the new Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) board and are demanding money be paid immediately to local level governments.

 

“Kokoda is shut down as of yesterday,” he said.

 

“There are plans to shut down Kokoda Airport too.

 

“Those already on the trail can pass but no one will start walking because our demands have not been met,” he said.

 

Koiari landowners want the KTA to immediately release 75 per cent of their funds.

 

“There is a million kina ($A500,000) with KTA and they want the money to go directly to them,” Mr Kennia said.

 

Landowners are also frustrated with specific personalities at the KTA.

 

“The landowners are trying to get rid of the new management team, basically the Australians running the KTA,” Mr Kennia said.

 

“They need to come down into the community, to relax and realise this is PNG, not Australia.”

 

Gail Thomas of travel firm Kokoda Trekking said the situation could be resolved by this weekend.

 

“We haven’t received any official notification it’s closed but I know KTA is trying to negotiate, (they are) flying to Kovelo and sitting down to talk on Friday,” she said.

 

“I’d say it’s similar to Qantas handlers threatening to not work on a public holiday.”

 

The KTA was unavailable for comment.

 

Last year Koiari landowners briefly shut down the Kokoda Trail during protests against the PNG and Australian governments which were opposed to a proposed mining venture.

 

Australian mining company Frontier Resources had planned to mine gold and copper along part of the trail and promised landowners the mine would earn them up to $100 million over 10 years.

 

The two governments last year agreed to ensure the trail would remain untouched and landowners would benefit from alternative development projects.

 

Frontiers’ exploration licence was not renewed because of fears mining activity would damage 600 metres of the historic World War II trail.