Russell Island Development Association calls for emergency barge ramps to be built on islands as battle against COVID-19 pandemic ramps up

ISLANDERS have launched an e-petition calling on the state government to build emergency barge ramps on Russell and Macleay islands to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

AMBITIOUS: Islanders have launched a petition urging the government to build two emergency barge ramps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

AMBITIOUS: Islanders have launched a petition urging the government to build two emergency barge ramps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Russell Island Development Association believes drastic measures should be taken to stop an outbreak and to protect the older population.

The petition calls for ramps to be built at Cross Street on Macleay and Rocky Point on Russell to provide a more direct route from the mainland to the islands via a vehicular ferry.

It is hoped that this, along with allowing people to stay in their vehicles for the duration of a trip, would reduce the chance of residents contracting coronavirus.

Association president Ian Olsson said there was a problem with social distancing on ferries, even with SeaLink announcing that capacity would be stripped back to a maximum of 60 people per vessel.

"Now that we have a pandemic, we have to act fast to provide safe options where many islanders can avoid the risk of contracting a life threatening virus by avoiding people," he said.

"We argue that if they remain in their cars and are transported to the island, there is nothing safer.

"If you travel shorter distances, naturally you can get a greater number of people across that are completely separated from people who have the virus or any other contagion.

"The idea has always been this. In the event of a great medical emergency, we believe the helicopter isn't good enough, nor are the existing ferries as they are just too slow to get people to hospital in time."

The association launched a petition last year calling for a cable ferry to be built from the mainland to Russell Island but it was knocked back by Transport Minister Mark Bailey, who said the patronage would not warrant the cost.

Mr Olsson said the cable ferry infrastructure was estimated to cost about $28.1 million, while a bridge to Russell Island - which residents have long fought for - would cost $136 million.

He said emergency barge ramps could be built within a matter of weeks at a cost of about $4 million if the state government were to call on army and navy engineers.

It would be a win-win situation for islanders and mainland residents, as it would likely alleviate parking problems at Weinam Creek, Redland Bay.

"It is going to cost money but if there is a large outbreak on the island it could save lives," Mr Olsson said.

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