Oodgeroo MP says North Stradbroke Island travel ban should end this weekend in plan to revive island economy hit hard by COVID-19

HIT HARD: Island businesses have been heavily impacted by the travel ban. Photo: File
HIT HARD: Island businesses have been heavily impacted by the travel ban. Photo: File

OODGEROO MP Mark Robinson has called for travel restrictions to be relaxed on North Stradbroke Island from this weekend, saying the mid-year school holidays will be crucial in reviving the island's coronavirus-stricken economy.

North Stradbroke was closed to visitors in late March, a heavy blow for an island which has relied almost solely on its tourist trade since the end of sandmining last year.

Straddie Chamber of Commerce president Colin Battersby told the Redland City Bulletinthat the island's economy had been devastated by the travel restrictions, with high numbers of summer and autumn visitors usually carrying the island through the quiet winter months.

A spokesperson for the Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development said a huge wave of tourists was expected when the island re-opened.

But Mr Robinson said Straddie property owners and beach four-wheel drivers should be allowed to return to the island from this weekend, to coincide with the state-wide easing of travel restrictions.

"Several owners anxious to return to vacant properties to perform routine maintenance have contacted me in recent weeks," he said.

"If people can picnic and visit parks, then why not on Straddie, and why not on secluded beaches where it can do no harm?"

Travel restrictions were put in place to protect the island community, which included a large population of people classed as vulnerable.

These included people over 70 years old, people over 65 with chronic illnesses or Indigenous people over 50.

People who live on the island would benefit from the relaxed travel rules, like being able to go boating or have a picnic. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to review restrictions again in two weeks, with further relaxations possible.

Mr Robinson said a full recovery plan was needed so island businesses and residents could plan for the months ahead.

He said the state government should also relax its 4WD beach access fees for the remainder of 2020.

"A plan to get Straddie working again by mid-year or sooner will require a significant injection of funding for tourism destination and marketing," he said.

"(With coronavirus) in retreat in Queensland, it is time to relax some restrictions to ease the jobs crisis and economic crisis it created on North Stradbroke Island."

In response to questions about plans for boosting tourism post-COVID, the DITID spokesperson said tourism projects were ongoing while the island was closed to visitors.

"These projects are not just injecting much needed investment and employment into the island economy but will strongly position it for recovery as a must-see destination when tourism reopens," the spokesperson said.

"There's plenty to look forward to in 2021 with the opening of Yalingbila Bibula and the Quandamooka Art Museum and Performance Institute and the return of the Quandamooka Festival and Yalingbila Tours whale watching."

During the COVID-19 pandemic but before domestic travel restrictions were introduced, the island experienced a huge surge of bookings, and QYAC chief executive Cameron Costello said another influx of visitors was expected when restrictions were lifted.