Cape York begins to reopen… sort of

ByWes WhitworthJune 16, 2020
Cape York begins to reopen… sort of

Chances are you’ve heard about the ‘biosecurity measures’ being lifted by the Federal Government, specifically relating to Cape York and the removal of the main point of restriction on travel to and from The Cape. If you were anything like me, your first thought would have been about Cape York beginning to reopen, and perhaps we may yet be able to have a ‘Cape Season’ this year, except it’s not that simple.

It is true that Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt approved an exemption for Queensland to lift the biosecurity laws, allowing travel within those areas. Indeed, if you happen to live in Cooktown, you’re now able to head down to Cairns to get a bit of retail therapy, and a night or two in the ‘big smoke’. Where there remains a problem is that despite those residents of Cape York being able to travel to Cairns, and then also return home (without needing to self-quarantine, at all) no one who lives outside of Cape York is allowed to enter the peninsula. Bear in mind that if you live anywhere within Queensland, you’re certainly allowed to travel up to Cairns for a holiday at this very moment.

Wes 9561 Pano

Now, despite many of us (Queenslanders and not) itching to get up to The Cape for our yearly pilgrimage, we will still be stopped at Mount Carbine, just north of Cairns, and turned around. The Queensland Government has said that it is for the safety of the communities in northern Queensland; yet, as we just said, if you live anywhere in the state, such as Brisbane, you’re able to travel to Cairns, and those in Cooktown Shire are also able to also travel to Cairns, without issue or quarantine. See where this is going?

If you’ve not had your morning (and lunch-time) coffee yet, let me spell it out. The current restriction on Cape York (allowing those who live in Cape York to leave and return unabated and without quarantining) is doing very little to stem the possibility of Covid-19 getting into The Cape. Certainly, the virus spread and infections have dropped off, and at time of writing there has been just one case reported in Queensland as a state in the past three days. Perhaps it’s time to allow Queenslanders back into The Cape, and then the greater Aussie population when Queensland decides to reopen its borders.

It’s more than just us not being able to head to The Cape… 

As you would no doubt be aware, many of the businesses in Cape York rely on tourism money brought in by avid four-wheel drivers and adventures like you and me and yet, up to this point, The Cape (everything north of Mount Carbine) has been closed off to use for the entire season. We spoke with Brooke at the Weipa Caravan Park and Camping Ground, and she confirmed that none of the businesses in Cape York have seen any tourists, nor any assistance from the government, so far throughout the entire pandemic.

Where this becomes more of a kick in the guts for those who are trying to stay afloat with no assistance is that there are many other options that could safely allow punters back into The Cape, and yet despite daily emails and phone calls to various government departments about allowing The Cape to reopen, they have fallen on deaf ears. And, unfortunately, Brooke at the Weipa Caravan and Camping Ground isn’t the only business that relies on tourism income. There are the local mechanics, the RACQ up there, the various other caravan parks north of Weipa and the Jardine River and, of course, the Croc Tent.

We’re hoping that the Queensland Government sees a bit of sense and perhaps allows travel into The Cape for all Queenslanders (at least for the interim), and perhaps restrict travel directly into the smaller communities like Mapoon and the actual residential townships of Seisa and Bamaga, yet allow travel into Weipa, to the shops in Bamaga and Seisa, and roadhouses and tourist destinations throughout Cape York.

Wes 9437

But what can you and I do? 

First off, if you’re a Queenslander, you can absolutely get in touch with your local member, or make a bit of noise with a strongly worded email to the Premier’s office. Alternatively, for Queenslanders and Aussies alike, I know some of the caravan parks and tourist spots in Cape York are taking bookings for next year’s Cape season, at least on the hope of it being allowed to reopen then. Unfortunately, it’s still too early for them to take bookings for this year, however everyone on The Cape, yours truly, and I’m sure, more than a few of you reading this, are holding out hope that the Queensland Government makes a solid judgement call. This will hopefully reopen Cape York before the pandemic, and a complete lack of support from the government, wipes out the small ‘mum & dad’ businesses in The Cape.

Fingers crossed.