Health officer to consider NQ travel bubble proposal
THE Premier has not pricked the tourism industry's dream to create a North Queensland travel bubble.
Annastacia Palaszczuk was asked this morning if she would ease travel restrictions from Mackay north to Cairns after an appeal by multiple North Queensland tourism groups.
Tourism leaders called for a North Queensland 'travel bubble' to be created as Stage 2 COVID-19 restrictions are rolled out in June.
But Ms Palaszczuk said any eased restrictions would need to be considered closely.
"I've asked them to submit a plan to government. It's something the Chief Health Officer could look at," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"It just depends, once again, on how our number of cases go when we look at the Stage 2."
"As I've said very clearly they will be reviewed at the end of each month,
"I will be meeting with different members of the tourism industry, the chamber of commerce and the mayor later on this week with (Tourism) Minister (Kate) Jones.
"We've accepted their invitation to come down and have a chat and we intend to do that."
Ms Palaszczuk highlighted her concerns about unlocking the region, particularly after a Rockhampton aged care nurse tested positive to the virus last week and was placed in isolation.
The bubble might also be threatened by announcement a coronavirus patient had been confirmed in Cairns. Ms Palaszczuk said the case wasn't new and authorities were not particularly concerned by it.
But with zero active cases of coronavirus in Mackay, Whitsundays, and Townsville, tourism groups called for the State Government to lift the 250km restriction on recreational travel within North Queensland.
Mackay Tourism chief executive officer Tas Webber said the blueprint for the plan was ready to be activated.
"We're calling for what has already been earmarked for the outback region in Stage 2, where travel within the region for recreational purposes is allowed and is applied to the wider North Queensland region from Mackay north to Cairns and west to the Northern Territory border," he said.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said the move would "re-energise North Queensland."
"We do not have the population base of the south east to support tourism businesses," she said.
"That is why we need an extension on the 250km zone and the upcoming school holidays would be the perfect opportunity for tourism operators to get back to normality.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said she understood the industry was suffering, but added any steps would need to be in line with health expert advice.
"Every single day throughout this crisis, I've spoken direct to regional tourism organisation bosses, on the ground in central and north Queensland," Ms Jones said.
"I understand that tourism operators are hurting.
"(But) the worst thing that could happen to the tourism industry in regional Queensland would be a major coronavirus outbreak - this would set us back decades."
She said an additional $50 million in tourism grants funding and $100 million to support small businesses would help the industry through the pandemic.
LNP Leader Deb Frecklington has already thrown her support behind the North Queensland travel bubble proposal and accused the Premier of tying up the struggling industry in red tape.
"Mackay and the Whitsundays are being fobbed off by the Premier and it's not good enough," Ms Frecklington said.
"Asking tourism leaders to make another submission is just putting another roadblock on the path to recovery.
"An economic crisis in unfolding right now in our tourism destinations and the Palaszczuk Labor Government urgently needs to be step up and start listening."