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11 January, 2022

2021 YEAR IN REVIEW

2021 will go down as another year dominated by Covid-19 and the impacts the pandemic has caused throughout the community. From businesses closing due a lack of tourists, through to the mandate banning unvaccinated people from entering certain businesses and going to festivals, the situation has taken its toll and everyone is looking forward to getting back to normal in 2022. But despite the disruption caused by Covid, 2021 had its highlights. Here’s a snapshot of the news over the past 12 months.


Photo | Dreamstime


JANUARY 

The year got off to a fairly positive start, with Dimbulah Mountain Estate Coffee in the national spotlight as they teamed up with Arnott’s as part of a special collection of Tim Tam flavours. 

As January got going, plenty of questions were being asked about the safety of the Barron River bridge at Kuranda and not many answers were forthcoming as commuters grappled with traffic hold-ups due to the bridge being reduced to one lane.

Mareeba Shire revealed it will cost more than $84 million over the next 10 years to improve its water infrastructure and ratepayers will bear some of that burden with a hike on water access charges, while residents got up in arms about a crime “spree” which building owners fed up with the damage being caused by juveniles. 

On a good note, Mareeba product Liam Waters managed to be the only rider from the Far North to participate in the Australian Superbike Series, and locals turned out to celebrate Australia Day at Dimbulah’s community event. 


FEBRUARY 

Crime in Mareeba was again in the news this month, with Mareeba Shire Council called for action from Member for Cook Cynthia Lui and a rally was organised to highlight the issue. Rentals were in scarce supply caused by a lack of housing stock as sales picked up and southerners moved north for a better lifestyle. 

In other news for the month included the opening of St Stephen’s Catholic College $7 million Holy Spirit Centre, the Great Wheelbarrow Race announced it would go ahead despite being pulled back to being a one-day challenge due to Covid (but in the end it was cancelled due to a lack of nominations), and a new initiative, the Shop Tablelands Gift Card, was launched to promote shopping local. 

Savannah in the Round announced 15 new artists for the 2021 festival, the Yungaburra Triathlon announced it was back for 2021, and Tablelands Mayor Rod Marti returned to work after a major health scare.


MARCH 

The search was on for a new CEO for Tablelands Regional Council after Bob Owen vacated the chair after just eight months, and the Katter Party got active launching a petition in a bid to put pressure on the State to fi nd a new transport link between Cairns and the Tablelands. 

In other news, Atherton’s John Cole Toyota commenced building its expanded premises; four-year-old Gia Smith waved goodbye to chemotherapy treatments much to the glee of her family; a new reservoir got underway for Ravenshoe; and single-use plastics were banned from takeaway shops. 

The Covid vaccine finally arrived on the Tablelands however that wasn’t enough to prevent the Mareeba Rodeo from being called off due to the pandemic (it eventually did go ahead as a one day event), but that didn’t stop Mt Garnet Rodeo organisers from battling ahead with their event. 


APRIL 

Covid really started to bite the local economy, with Kuranda hard hit by the lack of tourist and landlords trying to support business operators in the meantime. 

The fall armyworm continued its relentless attack on crops, becoming a national issue for farmers, as the battle for an alternative road link heated up as locals gathered to put pressure on the State on the issue as well as vent their frustration over the Barron River bridge repairs and its future. 

Byrnes Street Mareeba finally got the go ahead for pedestrian traffic signals (are they on yet?) and the “wombat” crossings we are now so familiar with. 

Tolga Primary School celebrated 125 years of operation, and Mareeba swimmers got the chance to meet Olympian gold medallist Jessica Schipper. 

Wet season rains came hard, with totals exceeding 200mm recorded for a three-day period in the southern Tablelands, but Tolga farmer Anthony Trimarchi brightened up everyone’s lives with eight acres of his farm blooming with sunflowers.


MAY 

May brought a new campaign by Tablelands Regional Council aimed at luring more tourists to the region and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with a new tourist attraction launched, the Talaroo Hot Springs between Mt Surprise and Georgetown.

The winner of the biggest Kensington Pride Mango competition was awarded to Mareeba local Ben Stabile with his specimen weighing 1.5kg, while some of Atherton’s most talented cricketers got the chance to play against former State and Australian players in a Twenty20 match at Tolga.

The new Railway Avenue car park opened in Mareeba, doubling capacity for those wanting to work and shop in the CBD and the town also celebrated the biggest Rotary FNQ Field Days ever in spite of the Covid pandemic disrupting or cancelling many others. 

To cap off the month, the Mt Uncle Distillery showed the world how good its products were, taking out gold and silver medals and the Gin of the Year and Best in Show by Country at the London Spirits Competition. 


JUNE 

CrossFit sensation, Mareeba’s 17-yearold Kara Trimble, was crowned the fittest teen in the country at the Torian Pro in Brisbane, while health was on the minds of a Mareeba group who formed a new not-for-profi t enterprise in a bid to improve health services in the town. 

The major upgrade for the Kennedy Highway between Mareeba and Atherton commenced as pressure continued to build a new bypass that would link the Tablelands to Cairns. Mareeba residents made their feelings known over the new “wombat” crossings in Byrnes Street, raising concerns about safety and fueling the frustration of truck drivers. 

Nerada Tea celebrated 50 years of operation at Malanda, while Atherton witnessed great progress on the redevelopment of the town’s hospital. Mareeba’s cenotaph was again the target of vandals, but the town got to celebrate the opening of its new Community Centre. 

Mareeba Shire brought down its annual budget, stinging ratepayers an extra $196 on their water access charge, but investing in infrastructure with a $31.4 million Capital Works program. 

Malanda’s new pump track opened as the town had fun at its annual show.


JULY 

The month started badly with juveniles charged with arson following a devastating fi re which destroyed Mareeba Yamaha and Performance Motors workshop as calls grew for another crime rally to address the concerns of citizens. 

Tablelands Regional Council released its budget, committing to a $30.3 million Capital Works program and putting rates up by 3.5 per cent. 

The Mareeba Rodeo limited event went ahead without a hitch, while Queensland Police Inspector Russell Rhodes was recognised for his 40-year career with the awarding of the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal. 

Another fire shocks Mareeba residents as two businesses, the Hort St Café and Floral Magic, were burned to the ground but authorities ruled out arson, as a new taskforce aimed at tackling juvenile crime was established. 


AUGUST 

Malanda Caravan Park residents were upset with the news they would have to leave after TRC made a decision to close the park, while Mareeba was informed that its ANZ Bank branch would close in January 2022. 

It was also the end of an era for Warren Burton and wife Nyree who decided to sell their property on the Kennedy Highway, spelling the end for the Scarecrow family which had brought smiles to the faces of motorists for nearly 20 years. 

Mt Carbine enjoyed the excitement of the town’s Rodeo, Mareeba celebrated its new library opening and Chillagoe residents finally got better water security with a new reservoir completed. 

Delays for commuters continued with no progress on opening the Barron River bridge back to two lanes and more works underway for the range road itself. 


SEPTEMBER

It was a month of openings for Mareeba, with the new Cedric Davies Community Hub officially opened, its new animal management facility, and a new playground at Centenary Park.

Dimbulah Lions celebrated its 60th anniversary, while the Targa Great Barrier Reef Race had another successful event, and the Atherton Roosters capped off their final home game of the season in style, taking home the John Cole Toyota Mayor’s Cup in the process.

The first meeting of the Mareeba Taskforce was held, promising to tackle issues such as youth crime, while residents in the Ravenshoe area started to raise serious concerns about a new wind farm at Chalumbin. 


OCTOBER 

Mareeba was the place to be for the Savannah in the Round event on the long weekend which brought thousands of people into the town to watch some of the best country music stars around. 

Malanda’s bull ride was also a sell-out, with 4000 plus attending the event, but the removal of trees in the town got residents up in arms. Meanwhile, trucks started to avoid Byrnes Street, Mareeba because of the troublesome “wombat” crossings, causing issues on other streets. 

Better Together Community Support managed to secure $4 million in government funding to build a fi t-for-purpose community centre in Atherton, while Mareeba State High became the first cab off the rank for vaccine jabs at their school. 

An internal review of TRC resulted in a raft of recommendations to tackle operational issues that had been plaguing the organisation, with new CEO Gary Rinehart taking over the reins in June and promising change. 

Motorists rejoiced when the Barron River bridge went back to two lanes and Mareeba Shire celebrated a good year with its annual report. 


NOVEMBER 

Barra Bash stalwart Ann Leighton called it a day after nearly 30 years involvement with the Tinaroo event, while both Mareeba and Atherton hosted their Business Excellence Awards. 

Figures from Spendmapp showed nearly $13 million was pumped into Mareeba’s economy and $14.5 million into Atherton economy over the past 12 months from visitors from the coast. The figures also showed more than $103 million was spent by Tablelands residents in the Cairns area during the same period. 

Tablelands residents were urged to get the vaccine with the deadline for borders opening set for 17 December. The news that the Queensland Government would introduce a mandate banning unvaccinated people from entering certain businesses, or facilities such as aged care home and events such as sport and music festivals was met with resistance, with rallies organised across the region. 

Mareeba father-of-two Marco Tiraboschi told his story about surviving a horrendous crocodile attack while fishing on the banks of the McIvor River, glad to be alive and sorry for what he described as a “careless act” that could have devastated his family.



DECEMBER 

Crime is the focus for many Mareeba citizens, with statistics showing they are twice more likely to be a victim of crime than their counterparts in Atherton. 

Figures from Queensland Police showed there were 1951 offences recorded in Mareeba over the past 12 months compared to Atherton’s 967. 

A crime rally was held late December, with a raft of resolutions voted upon that residents want actioned. 

Anti-mandate rallies continue to be held outside Mareeba Shire Council and Tablelands Regional Council as residents reject what they call discrimination against unvaccinated people. 

Teenager Jacob Fagg-MacLaughlin thanked first responders after he suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing sport, adding that if his parents had not known CPR, he may not have survived. 

Global country superstar Brad Paisley was named as the headline act for the 2022 Savannah in the Round festival to be held in October. 

Mareeba Chamber of Commerce release the economic snapshot for 2021-22, revealing that the Savannah in the Round generated more than $2.5 million for the economy.

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