SLOW RECOVERY: The Cooloola Great Walk, from the Carlo Sandblow, as Queensland attempts to get the Cooloola Coast back into business.
SLOW RECOVERY: The Cooloola Great Walk, from the Carlo Sandblow, as Queensland attempts to get the Cooloola Coast back into business.

Business crisis as lockdown easing bypasses Cooloola

CORONAVIRUS and the state government’s lockdown response have all but destroyed Cooloola Coast tourism, state parliament has been told.

And although state ministers spoke on the issue in parliament this week, they did not appear to address substantially the specific concerns expressed about Cooloola and Fraser Island.

Gympie MP Tony Perrett called for an accelerated easing of lockdown restrictions, pointing to visitor restrictions that did not match government claims and did not seem consistent.

Some business had seen revenue decline up to 90 per cent and others would not be reopening, partly because of inconsistent restrictions.

The state government had encouraged people to holiday locally but had prevented them from doing so at the Cooloola Coast.

“Two weeks ago, visitors who followed the Premier’s advice to holiday locally were locked out. They were met with barrier tape and (sent) home. Some had travelled three hours to get there,” he said.

The damage was especially acute at Rainbow Beach, with what Mr Perrett described as “a 100 per cent tourist based economy.”

The government had imposed a “mess” of “unworkable, chaotic and contradictory fanfares about lifting restrictions.”

“The Cooloola Coast is a cheap, easily accessible, family friendly, adventure based economy relying on the drive tourist market,” Mr Perrett said.

“Rainbow Beach, the gateway to Fraser Island, is 100 per cent tourist based (and) local businesses have experienced more than a 90 per cent decline in revenue, one reported 97 per cent.

“There are reports that some businesses are closing,” he said.

“The 50km rule stopped Gympie locals visiting (Cooloola). The government’s reluctant extension to 150km was after a two-week wait.”

And then they had to deal with a beach access fees issue, even for Rainbow Beach residents with fee exemptions.

“The cat was let out of the bag when people went online to apply for permits,” Mr Perrett said. “I contacted the minister’s office. The next day we were told capped camping was available. I was inundated with angry calls that it was limited to 20, when the normal capacity is 2300.”

Driving permits became harder to obtain, an access limit of 200 was announced, increased to 760 later that morning, before the government announced the improvement was “a clerical error."

Tourism and State Development Minister Kate Jones said regional tourism would benefit from government subsidised flights between Cairns and Sunshine Coast airports and businesses would be helped by government promotional support.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland had experienced the eastern seaboard’s highest growth for the Seek employment site.

“The top industry for growth in job ads in Queensland was hospitality,” she said.

She urged people to support restaurants and cafes and said there had been a 189 per cent increase in hospitality and tourism business as restrictions eased.

Gympie Times


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