You’re off the island: Campers without double-jab to be banned from tourist retreats

Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands will ban campers who are not double vaccinated this holiday season as the State’s tourism industry seeks more clarification on the rules post December 17.

Nov 18, 2021, updated Nov 23, 2021
Cowan Cowan Camping | 48 hours on Moreton Island

Cowan Cowan Camping | 48 hours on Moreton Island

Popular camping grounds on Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands will ban campers who are not fully vaccinated and who fail to supply their vaccination certificates.

The tough new rules, aimed at protecting the Aboriginal populations of the islands off Brisbane, will apply from December 17 when the State is expected to hit 80 per cent vaccination targets and open up to the rest of the country.

Revelation of the restrictions, which have already forced some camping cancellations and angry calls, comes as tourist operators around the State express concern about how the COVID-19 rules will affect them and who will be policing them and how.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said there are many unanswered questions about operation of the new regulations and his organisation is collating a list of queries for the Government which need answers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced another “double donut” day for the State, recording no new cases on Thursday and said 71.6 per cent of the community was now fully vaccinated.

And, with no new cases on the Gold Coast, after a scare there the previous week, Palaszczuk announced “Schoolies is good to go”, as the State’s Year 12s finish their studies.

“I have good news for Queensland. Today is a double donut day … Schoolies is good to go. The Chief Health Officer has advised that he is confident that the two cases on the Gold Coast have been contained,” Palaszczuk told Parliament.

The Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC), the traditional owners of Minjerribah and Mulgumpin or Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands, are particularly concerned about vulnerable Elders contracting COVID-19, hence the ban on the unvaccinated.

In a statement to campers with bookings for the holiday period, the QYAC says that from December 17 all guests aged 16 and over will be required to supply their vaccination certificates no later than seven days prior to their arrival.

“Guests who cannot provide a COVID-19 digital certificate verifying they are fully vaccinated will not be accepted – full refunds will be provided for anyone who has already paid,” the statement says.

The QYAC chief executive officer, Mike Fordham, said QYAC was extremely concerned that Aboriginal communities would be at high risk of the virus when large numbers of interstate travellers arrive on the hugely popular holiday islands.

“QYAC recognises that tourism is an essential economic activity for the islands, but we need to adopt this measure in the short-term while vaccination rates across Queensland and our local communities continue to rise,” Fordham said.

“Minjerribah and Mulgumpin Camping are now communicating with all of our guests about the new guidelines to ensure minimal impacts to their holiday camping experience over the holiday break.”

Fordham said the corporation had a duty of care to staff working in the national parks, campgrounds and caravan parks who will be exposed to incoming tourists.

The Aboriginal population of the islands is believed to be about 250 and about 80 per cent of staff working in the national parks and camping grounds are Quandamooka and 10 per cent are from other Indigenous groups.

“We are very concerned,” Fordham told InQueensland. “We have had a bit of backlash, as you would expect. It is not an easy decision to make but it is something we have to do.”

Whilst about 20 prospective campers have cancelled their bookings due to the tough new rules, Fordham said another 180 new bookings had been taken.

The island restrictions come as Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory battle a serious COVID-19 cluster in Katherine and the remote Robinson River community. The NT Government has described the situation there as serious and warned lives could be lost.

Kingfisher Bay Resort on K’Gari or Fraser Island has also notified prospective guests they won’t be allowed without proof of double vaccination. The ban includes guided tours and cruises, dining at food and beverage outlets and all staff must be fully vaccinated.

Upon check-in, vaccination certificates must be shown for everyone aged over 16.

Gschwind said tourist operators across the State are concerned about regulations.

“There are still questions that we would like to have answered and we have asked the Government. They are telling us the health directives are still being put together,” Gschwind said.

“It (December 17) is creeping up on us and we need to make preparations. Are there administrative changes that need to be made? Possibly even logistical things, like barriers? We certainly need a bit more information and that is what we are seeking from the Government.

“There are a lot of questions being asked of us and we obviously don’t have the answers yet. There are many, many questions that we are collating for the Government and hopefully we will have answers to them all.”

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