Anger as Straddie campsites empty over holidays
TOURIST-starved businesses on North Stradbroke Island are up in arms after a dismal two-week school holiday period in which the island's five main caravan parks remained empty.
Caravan sites at Amity Point, Adder Rock, Thankful Rest, Bradbury's Beach and Adams Beach were all closed to tourists for the two weeks despite the state government easing restrictions on June 8 and again on July 10.
Many small businesses on the island had anticipated a spike in tourists for the annual holiday season.
But Straddie Chamber of Commerce president Colin Battersby said the expected surge never happened on the island despite the state's border opening on the weekend.
"For the entire school holidays the caravan sites have been empty which is bad news for the small businesses on the island which rely on about 10,000 or so tourists who come and stay," Mr Battersby said.
"Everywhere else is open but not Straddie and the small businesses want to know why."
Mr Battersby said the lack of trade from the campsites over the school holidays raised questions about their management by indigenous group Minjerribah Camping.
Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Cameron Costello stepped in and took on the role of Minjerribah Camping CEO in March.
Mr Costello said Flinders and Main Beach sites were opened during the Queensland holidays for four-wheel drive campers.
Caravan sites at Cylinder and Amity opened on Friday in time for the New South Wales holidays but both remained empty.
He said caravan sites at Adder Rock and Adams Beach would stay closed for maintenance work while Bradbury's Beach site, at Dunwich, was being used by workers upgrading the nearby education hub.
He dismissed claims Minjerribah Camping was in financial strife and said aboriginal elders, in conjunction with the board, decided to keep the majority of camp sites' closed over school holidays.
"The indigenous community on the island is vulnerable and would not survive if there was an outbreak of COVID, which is why we asked for the island to be locked down in April and have kept campsites closed," he said.
"This is likely to be our best year despite the lockdown because we had good numbers before April and over the school holidays we had between 400 and 500 four-wheel drive campers.
"This is traditionally our low time because it is cold and even though we only had Main Beach and Flinders Beach sites open, we had a surge in numbers because people had been cooped up during the pandemic and decided to escape to the island."
Employment Minister Shannon Fentiman said the state had given grants to 130 small businesses in Redland including those on Straddie.
But Opposition MP Mark Robinson, whose Oodegeroo electorate covers Straddie, slammed the camping closures saying they were part of a failed state government plan which locals dubbed "Trad-broke".
"The local small businesses and tourism operators who create most of the jobs are doing it tough under Labor's economic transition strategy away from mining," Mr Robinson said.
"The locals call it the 'Trad-broke' Island plan because the only transition has been from work to the dole queue.
"Small businesses must be central to the island's recovery after COVID as they will be the main job creators for those who survive."
Straddie businessman Jim Campbell said he was disappointed the campsites were not opened for the two-week holiday period.
"It's unfair to all Aussies who wanted to come to the island to escape after the COVID lockdowns and we still don't have a valid reason for them being closed."
Dunwich Spar Express owner Jatin Patel said even though his grocery store was well patronised by island residents, business had not been the usual buoyant holiday trade.
"They decided to lockdown the island for the benefit of everyone … we did have a drop in business but others who are dependent on tourism have really been affected."
Originally published as Anger as Straddie campsites empty over holidays