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31 May, 2020

Calls for easing of Cape restrictions

The calls for the relaxing of restrictions currently imposed on Cape York communities are getting louder.

By Phil Brandel

The calls for the relaxing of restrictions currently imposed on Cape York communities are getting louder.

Last week Bob Katter joined hundreds of protesters in the remote community of Yarrabah calling for the state government to ease strict coronavirus lockdown measures.

Mr Katter said the demonstration followed weeks of turbulent behaviour in some communities including rioting in Aurukun, demonstrations at Yarrabah and the jailing of Doomadgee residents.

"There has been extreme rioting in Aurukun, screaming from Palm Island and Doomadgee is getting close to exploding," he said.

In March the state government announced extensive lockdowns across Cape York to stop COVID-19 from entering indigenous communities.

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch is calling for the travel ban to be lifted between Cairns and Cooktown and for an economic corridor to be opened.

“Cooktown is not a remote aboriginal community, there is no reason why it should be locked down or included in the Designated Biosecurity Area,” he said

Instead of the Biosecurity Areas being dictated by the state government Mr Entsch is calling for local communities to be able to make their own decisions.

“Places like Mapoon, Kowanyama and Arakoon can make their own decisions about being locked down or within their own bubble. But it makes no sense having places like Cooktown, Weipa or Bamaga also locked down.”

NQ First leader Jason Costigan joined the chorus for lockdown restrictions to be eased on the cape saying that he thinks urgent action is needed.

"I call on the Federal and State Governments to lift the lockdowns in Cape York. There are people now battling mental health issues, alcoholism, domestic violence and financial hardship. I note what the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce has done in wanting that economic corridor between Cooktown and Mareeba. These people deserve more. We have oppression and it is not good enough," he said.

Mayor of Cooktown Peter Scott says he doesn’t want to rush into anything that could have long-lasting effects on his community.

“We have got accommodation up here that is suffering due to lack of tourists.  At the same time, our retail outlets are doing well because people are shopping locally rather than going to Cairns or Mareeba.” Mr Scott said

“We can’t just open broadscale because the risk is just too great,

“But we are working with the Department of health to try and ease up on some of the restrictions and that should open up more business for our struggling businesses.”

Mr Scott says that any calls for the cape to be reopened is a bad call. “It should be left up to the local disaster management groups, let us make the decisions of what, when and how,” he said

“I’m having conference calls with the local disaster management groups next week and the states biosecurity officer to try and get some things approved”

“The rush to open an economic corridor could be a little pre-emptive but I’m pretty happy with how things are moving at the moment.”

Yesterday while announcing the further lifting of restrictions for Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "The easing of restrictions does not apply to biosecurity or restricted zones for indigenous communities which will remain in place subject to a review in consultation with community members."



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