GENERAL permission fossicking areas have reopened with the ease of restrictions but the 50km travel ban is stopping most Central Queenslanders from accessing them.
Fifth-generation Clermont man Steven Fry was back out searching for gold within hours of the reopening.
“I was pretty excited when I got the word that they were open again,” Mr Fry said.
“I went out at sunrise Saturday morning as they opened for a couple of hours and found a few small ones totalling about 11 grams and I was home by 10am to spend time with the kids.”
The 37-year-old father of four is an avid prospector and is out in the general areas when he can, generally for a few hours more than five times a week.
While he had “done really well” in the Clermont general permission areas, his biggest find was a 173g piece of gold in the McMasters GPA a few months before the restrictions kicked in.
“I was a little shocked when they were closed as we are normally very isolated from others while we detect, but oh well, rules are rules,” he said.
Shadow Minister Natural Resources and Mines Dale Last said he welcomed the eased restrictions, although thought more changes were needed to support the local economy.
“Like many people I am glad to see the restrictions on fossicking being relaxed but the real thanks needs to go to the people who put the pressure on Minister Lynham to act,” Mr Last said.
“While the reopening of fossicking will assist some small businesses, we need to see wider support for our small businesses, just as we have seen in other states.”
Like many regional towns in Central Queensland, Clermont heavily relies on winter travellers who bring an abundance of business.
Clermont Caravan Park’s Mort Gott said what was usually a jam-packed park, was completely empty.
“This is when we have the most people, all through the colder months,” Mr Gott said.
“We’re normally full this time of year and now we don’t have anyone.”
Mr Gott said the only thing that would make a difference was the lifting of the 50km travel restrictions.
“We can’t go to Mackay to go fishing because it’s their water and we need to stay here, they can’t come here for the same reasons,” he said.
The Outback Prospector owner Frieda Berry-Porter said like the caravan park, her business also relied on people visiting the area.
Although the travel bans had prevented mass movement through regional towns, it had also prevented grey nomads and usual visitors from across Central Queensland.
Mrs Berry-Porter was thrilled to hear fossicking was re-allowed, because it was a typical recreation activity for many.
“When you look at what we do for recreation, some people enjoy fishing and they can go to Theresa Ck, but this is like dirt fishing for the people that really enjoy it,” she said.
Mrs Berry-Porter said it had become popular with miners who used it to improve mental and physical health after a 12-hour shift.
“Our hard-working coal miners have been there through this and the least we can do for them is let them go for a bit of R&R,” she said.
“The activity itself is underrated.”
She said many prospectors from Moranbah, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone usually travelled to Clermont during the holidays and long weekends and could not wait for the travel restrictions to ease.
“A lot of locals have still been supporting us in the absence of the grey nomad which we are so thankful for,” she said.