STOP PAN­DER­ING TO THE SOUTH­EAST AND... UN­LOCK NORTH NOW

Lead­ers unite in plea for econ­omy

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG WARHURST

NORTH Queens­land tourism op­er­a­tors have de­manded Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk open up North Queens­land now “to pre­vent a tsunami of busi­ness clo­sures”.

Fig­ures show the gov­ern­ment-en­forced COVID-19 do­mes­tic travel lock­down is cost­ing the North Queens­land econ­omy more than $90 mil­lion each week.

The mas­sive loss, and news that 20,000 more North Queensland­ers are out of work, has prompted tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity lead­ers to call for an ur­gent re­view of travel re­stric­tions.

NORTH Queens­land tourism op­er­a­tors have de­manded Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk open up North Queens­land now “to pre­vent a tsunami of busi­ness clo­sures”.

Fig­ures show the gov­ern­ment-en­forced COVID-19 do­mes­tic travel lock­down is cost­ing the North Queens­land econ­omy more than $90 mil­lion each week.

The mas­sive loss, and news that 20,000 ex­tra North Queensland­ers are out of work, has prompted tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity lead­ers to call for an ur­gent re­view of travel re­stric­tions in time for the school hol­i­days.

Townsville En­ter­prise has joined with the Re­gional Tourism Of­fices from Cairns, the Whit­sun­days, Mackay and Out­back re­gions, urg­ing re­stric­tions on recre­ational travel be lifted im­me­di­ately and widened to the ex­ist­ing Out­back travel bub­ble.

Townsville En­ter­prise chief ex­ec­u­tive Pa­tri­cia O’cal­laghan said that North Queens­land did not have the pop­u­la­tion den­sity the likes of the Gold Coast and Brisbane could draw upon to sup­port strug­gling tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses.

“It is un­re­al­is­tic and eco­nom­i­cally un­vi­able to place the same set of rules on North Queens­land as the South East, which is why we need an ex­ten­sion on the 150km zone,” Ms O’cal­laghan said.

“We’re call­ing for what has al­ready been ear­marked for the ‘Out­back’ re­gion in stage two, where travel within the re­gion for a recre­ational pur­pose is al­lowed and that it be ap­plied to the wider North Queens­land re­gion from Mackay north to Cairns and west to the Queens­land bor­der.

“While we sup­port the pre­mier’s call ask­ing ‘ Queensland­ers to back Queensland­ers’ and to travel and spend within the state, this can only have a real ben­e­fit to our econ­omy if North Queensland­ers are able to move more freely within our own re­gion, so our vi­tal drive mar­ket can travel and fully sup­port our flail­ing tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

“We need to see North Queens­land re­open as soon as pos­si­ble and im­ple­ment­ing a wider travel bub­ble as well as in­creas­ing the gath­er­ing size al­lowed in busi­nesses prior to the school hol­i­days will be the start of what is needed to reen­er­gise the North Queens­land econ­omy.”

A re­cent mem­ber sur­vey con­ducted by Townsville En­ter­prise re­vealed 55 per cent of lo­cal tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses did not en­vis­age vi­ably re­open­ing un­der the cur­rent road map, in­di­cat­ing how crit­i­cal it was for North Queens­land to get back to busi­ness.

The five tourism bod­ies are en­cour­ag­ing the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment to con­sider the pro­cesses in place in Western Aus­tralia, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and South Aus­tralia, where broader travel within their own state has re­laxed due to low in­fec­tion rates.

“The Queens­land CHO stated from the out­set that a re­gion would need to see two in­cu­ba­tion pe­ri­ods (28 days) without a lo­cally ac­quired case for re­stric­tions to be re­viewed – it has now been more than four weeks since Townsville, Mackay or the Out­back has seen a new case and there has been no com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion at all in these ar­eas; fur­ther to this it has been over eight weeks since any cases in North Queens­land were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Ms O’cal­laghan said.

“We have met every health hur­dle to date, and we don’t un­der­stand why we can’t get back to work.

“The tourism sec­tor in our re­gion sup­ports over 7000 lo­cal jobs and con­trib­utes more than $1.2 bil­lion an­nu­ally to our re­gional econ­omy; how­ever, this in­dus­try has been ef­fec­tively shut down through­out the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“The best way to kick­start the econ­omy is to re­open re­gional tourism in North Queens­land and that can be en­cour­aged through a re­lax­ation of the cur­rent travel bound­aries.

“Statewide travel and the re­open­ing of bor­ders needs to oc­cur as soon as pos­si­ble to pre­vent a tsunami of busi­ness clo­sures.

“We need to see North Queens­land re­open … with a travel bub­ble as well as fast­track­ing our re­gion to stage three to en­able busi­nesses to re­open prior to the school hol­i­days. It will be the start of what is needed to re-en­er­gise the North Queens­land econ­omy.”

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