OUTBACK tourism operators have been decimated financially by COVID-19 travel restrictions but now there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.
Banana Shire Council Mayor Nev Ferrier said that it’s likely Premier Palaszczuk will be looking at amending some of the intrastate travel restrictions in Queensland at the end of May.
“We will need to start to open up inside the state and let these grey nomads go around the state and in our region,” Cr Ferrier said.
“The Premier will, I say, be looking at possibly doing that by the end of May.
“The latest COVID-19 case in Rockhampton brought us back to reality a bit.
“But people are going to be broke if we don’t start doing things.”
The Banana Shire Council is aiming to reopen all national parks and camping grounds on June 12, in-line with stage two restrictions which allow for hiking, camping and other recreational activities in national and state parks.
After being forced to close on March 26, Lake Callide Retreat are almost set to reopen.
Lake Callide Retreat caretaker Kerry Laughton said they are looking to reopen the retreat to outback travellers as early as next week once they have finished putting their COVID-19 management plan together.
“We’ve had quite a few phone calls and people asking when we are opening but I don’t know how many will travel here,” Mrs Laughton said.
“The shutdown has made it hard for us.
“We were all set up for the winter runs with the grey nomads and it all came to a halt apart from the limited amount of essential workers staying here.
“I would say our occupancy rate now is about two per cent or something, I don’t know for sure but it’s not much anyway.”
As of May 15, residents in the outback shire can partake in overnight recreational travel within 500 kilometres of their home in outback shires.
Callide MP Colin Boyce said he cannot see that it is in the best interest of the Queensland and Callide region economy to have the borders closed for intrastate travel.
“If the current Government keeps the borders shut till September I would suggest that would have serious ramifications for business up and down the coast and rural and regional and Queensland,” Mr Boyce said.
“The whole point to all of this is in typical bureaucratic fashion, it’s the one size fits all and the reality is many small towns and rural areas haven’t had any cases so you could fairly argue it’s unnecessary to keep those very restrictive movements of people in place
“I think going out camping for the weekend with your family, that would be in my view, a very limited possibility of catching any Covid strain in the outback.
“I know there is some talk about the legality of opening that and where that ends up I’m not sure.”
BIG4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park manager Tina Sama said that on June 13 they can start to take bookings for outback travellers as part of stage two restrictions.
Situated in the North Burnett Council region, the region wasn’t declared an outback shire despite having no cases of the COVID-19 strain, meaning the park can’t take advantage of the stage one easing of travel restrictions.
“We will hopefully be getting people from Bundaberg and others within that 250 kilometre stage two regulation,” Miss Sama said.
“It gets in some of the June-July holidays so if that comes to eventuate we will get school holiday travellers.
“It’s all the small places doing it real tough but there’s nothing we can do about it, just abide by the rules.”
When the Lake Callide Retreat reopens within a week’s time, Mrs Laughton said they will be launching a fossicking program for all ages with the use of gemstone treasure bags, skieves and a willoughby to attract more travellers.
“Buy the bag and set up an area to put a third of the in a sieve, wash the dirt in the willoughby and up-end on the table and find the gemstones,” Mrs Laughton said.
“There’s the possibility of sapphires in there from the Sapphire Mine.
“We have had calls from locals as well and so there’s a good chance of them coming out and enjoying the open air.”