fireys fight to protect tourist drawcards


Firefighters are warning that weather conditions will continue to fan flames as they battle a massive out-of-control blaze on Queensland’s Fraser Island.

The fire, which has been burning for a month-and-a-half, is closing in on two tourist attractions.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service said on Sunday the fire was five kilometres from the Kingfisher Bay Resort, which has temporarily closed its doors, on the island’s western beach.

Another fire front was just two kilometres from the Cathedrals camping ground on the other side of the island.

“Weather conditions will continue to deteriorate today, with increased smoke reducing visibility and air quality on Fraser Island and adjacent mainland areas,” QFES said on Sunday.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, temperatures hit 29C on Fraser Island on Sunday morning with winds expected to increase in the afternoon.

Maximum temperatures are forecast to remain in the low 30s for the rest of the week.

Authorities have closed the island to new arrivals until at least December 13 as they fight to contain the blaze.

However they have not ordered an evacuation, with people already on the island advised to limit their movements while several major tracks have been closed.

Smoke from the fire is affecting the nearby mainland, reaching Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Gympie and Tin Can Bay.

The fire has now ripped through 72,000ha of land, equivalent to 40 per cent of the 181,851 hectare world heritage-listed island.

The fire broke out on October 14 when an illegal campfire got out of control.



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Fire crews battling to stop Fraser bushfire reaching tourist areas


QFES Superintendant John Pappas said there is not currently any threat to property and containment lines have been put in place ahead of both the fire fronts.

“We have pre-deployed crews to both the Kingfisher Resort and Happy Valley precincts to assist occupants in preparing their properties,” he said.

A map of Fraser Island showing the area known as Cathedrals, on the eastern side of the island, and Kingfisher Bay on the west.

“As the fire moves closer we will look at deploying more resources to those areas.”

“We’re not signalling an evacuation of the island, it’s just about making people aware of the hazards that are there and also controlling numbers so as the fire continues and we need to move people around it doesn’t overwhelm fire crews or park staff.”

QFES has 35 firefighters on the ground on the island assisting parks and wildlife officers in fighting the blaze, with support from multiple water bombing helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Authorities are expecting conditions on the island to deteriorate into Sunday, with temperatures already in the high 20s on Saturday expected to climb over 30 agrees, and winds to pick up.

“We’re very aware of the increasing fire conditions over the next few days, and as fires are burning in inaccessible terrain we’re very wary about where it is going and what implications that might have for firefighters and people on the ground,” Superintendent Pappas said.

Smoke from the fire is affecting the region around Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Bundaberg, however with the wind shifting into Sunday parts of the Sunshine Coast and northern Brisbane are expected to see smoke haze.

In social media posts yesterday, both sites assured guests staying on the island that they were not in any danger.

“Please note that this is not an evacuation of the island, and anyone currently on Fraser Island is able to remain until further notice,” Kingfisher Bay Resort said on its Facebook page.

“At this stage, the island’s major attractions including Champagne Pools, Eli Creek and Lake McKenzie have been unaffected,” Cathedrals on Fraser assured its guests.



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Cape Leveque Road upgrade paves way for tourist influx as residents fear damage to Indigenous cultural sites


The once-treacherous Cape Leveque Road in Western Australia has been transformed into a fully sealed road, with a $65-million upgrade concluding this week.

The 90-kilometre stretch of road between Broome and the Dampier Peninsula has long been regarded as one of the most difficult drives in the Kimberley region, prone to flooding during the wet and a rough drive during the dry.

Kimberley Baird remembers the treacherous trip down the old Cape Leveque Road well.

“It was good in one way because if outsiders came out our way … that would be the first and last trip for them here.”

The project to seal the road began in 2018 in a bid to improve access to and from the Dampier Peninsula year-round.

And while local communities welcomed the news that work on the road finally finished earlier this week, there was a mixed reaction to what the new road could bring.

Workers cut the ribbon to mark the completion of the road project on Tuesday.(Supplied: Albert Clifton)

Tourism management plan needed

Mr Baird, a Bardi man living on the Peninsula, said he was optimistic about how the road would help improve life for those living the area but there needed to be a management plan in place soon to help the coast deal with the projected influx of tourists.

“It’s good for the residents that live up here to have access in and out of town,” he said.

“On the other side of the coin, it paves the way for a lot of people to come out this way, and that in itself can damage the country up here.

“And they haven’t got [anything] in place to do that at this point in time — sad to say.”

A person holding an umbrella standing knee-deep in red floodwater next to a car on a flooded road.
The Cape Leveque Road was prone to flooding in the Kimberley’s wet season, cutting off communities on the Peninsula.(Supplied: Molly Hunt)

The WA Government allocated $1 million to a working group of stakeholders on the Peninsula last year, which included Bardi Jawi Indigenous Protected Area coordinator Daniel Oades.

He and the group have been working on a management plan but have not formalised any plans at this stage to manage tourists and communicate appropriate usage of the area.

“It’s the majority of Aboriginal native title land up the Peninsula,” Mr Oades said.

“You’re going to get a lot of uninformed people looking for free camping and we’ve been taking care of some of those people, but we’ve got to really get our story straight … and really make it clear to any visitors about what kind of visitation is allowed.”

In the interim, signage will be erected to inform tourists entering the region.

While the completion of the project marked an end to a two-year project funded by both the WA and federal governments, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the long-term benefits of the project could not be overstated.

“I recently visited the project and met some of the workers on the project. It was great to hear the good news stories about the positive impact this project has had and will continue to have on the local communities.”



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Tourist sues for $840K over thrill ride back injury


A UK tourist is suing a Whitsunday jet boat company for $840,000 over alleged safety negligence after she was injured during a thrill ride off Hamilton Island.

Janet Elizabeth Turner claims she now suffers chronic pain and needs heavy medication after smashing into the seat during the ride and fracturing her back.

In paperwork filed in the Rockhampton Supreme Court, lawyers for the 53 year old alleged the jetboat operators, Hamilton Island Water Sports Pty Ltd, breached their duty of care.

It is alleged the company’s failure to secure cushions and provide a seatbelt resulted in Ms Turner’s injury. She is suing for $840,100 in damages.

A UK woman claims an injury she suffered during a jetboat ride at Hamilton Island as caused ongoing pain. Picture: iStock.

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Ms Turner had been travelling in the region with family and opted for a 30-minute jetboat ride on Hamilton Island on September 18, 2017.

The claim states yellow cushions, about one inch thick, were placed on each wooden bench but not secured in place and there were no seatbelts available for passenger use.

It is alleged after leaving the marina the driver of the boat steered the vessel in a zigzag pattern.

“(The driver) announced he was going to count to three before steering the speedboat into a spin,” the file states.

Following this Ms Turner moved to a different seat before the driver began another zigzag pattern before announcing another spin – he counted to three and turned the boat sharply, it is alleged.

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Ms Turner alleges she was “propelled up off her seat” while her feet remained on the boat’s floor and as this happened the cushion slid from the bench.

She claims when she slammed back onto the seat she “suffered immediate pain in her back”.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers special counsel Darren Moore alleged, during the course of the ride, the cushion on her seat came loose and “she smashed into a metal pole and fractured her back”.

“She now suffers from pain on a daily basis,” Mr Moore said.

“The jetboat operators had a duty to take reasonable precautions against risk of injury to those travelling on the boat, including Ms Turner.

Mr Moore alleged a “failure to secure the cushions and to provide a seatbelt lead to Ms Turner’s injury”.

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“As a result of these injuries, Ms Turner now suffers from ongoing pain which can only be controlled with strong medication,” Mr Moore said.

“Ms Turner will require ongoing care and assistance due to her medical condition.

“Her work in her chosen career as a laboratory technician is now also significantly limited due ongoing problems with her back.”

Hamilton Island Water Sports Pty Ltd was contacted for comment but did not reply before publication.





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Thailand approves Special Tourist Visa (STV) for long-staying visitors – Tourism


The Thai Cabinet has approved a special tourist visa (STV) for long-staying visitors (90 days) in a bid to revive the tourism sector in Thailand.

Under the STV scheme, long-staying visitors can stay in the country for 90 days, which can be extended twice, each for a further 90 days.

The special visa scheme is expected to become effective after the official announcement and will be available until 30 September, 2021.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand usually received no less than 2 trillion baht revenue each year from international tourists.

Thailand’s economy should contract between 8% to 12% this year given its reliance on exports and tourism and the strong baht, which gained more than 6% in the second quarter.

But the lack of international visitors has deprived the tourism sector of revenue, causing a knock-on effect to all sectors in the economy, and the government is now seeking to allow international visitors to return to limited areas of the country.

The STV will be granted to long-staying visitors who comply with Thailand’s COVID-19 control and preventive measures. They will be required to undergo a 14-day alternative local state quarantine (ALSQ) upon their arrival.

Visitors applying for this visa must be able to produce evidence of their long-term stay in Thailand, such as a receipt for their quarantine accommodation or hospital stay payment, plus either the payment confirmation for accommodation or hospital stay after their quarantine, or a copy of the title deed of their condominium, owned by either the applicant or a family member, or confirmation of a rental condominium or house, or a downpayment confirmation for the purchase or rent of a unit legally sold to a foreigner.

After completing the COVID-19 screening and quarantine measures as set out by the Ministry of Public Health and other agencies, and provided that all the accommodation requirements are met, foreigners can apply for the Special Tourist Visa with the fee of 2,000 baht.

The visa will come with a 90-day validity. An extension for another 90 days can be applied twice, subject to the discretion of an immigration officer, with new applications and fee to be resubmitted and paid each time.



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Tourist town of Kalbarri is booming but has run out of worker accommodation


West Australians are heeding the State Government’s call to wander out yonder to stimulate regional business, but it has come at a cost.

Holiday accommodation in the Midwest coastal town of Kalbarri, 570 kilometres north of Perth, has been booked out for months thanks to a rush of people exploring their own state while interstate and international tourism has been shut off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business owners and workers, however, say the flipside of the boom is a lack of housing for people in the service industries.

They are being forced to cut back services, and at least one is considering closing because of a lack of housing for themselves and staff to rent.

The owners of a successful family cleaning business which services local accommodation providers say they may be forced to leave or move into a caravan with three of their children, because they cannot find a place to live.

Amanda and Owen Hooton said they and their children have had to leave their rental home but are struggling to find an alternative.

“It is really hard, no sleep. It is the stress.”

Her husband Owen said the holiday market has squeezed out long-term renters.

“It is that busy here with the holiday market that there are no private rentals available,” Mr Hooton said.

“For people that want to come here and work there is nothing here.”

Customers to serve, but no staff

Restaurant owner Melissa Finlay described business this year as “a rollercoaster”.

“From being shut down, no one here, scrambling ‘how we are going to survive’, to reopening and then scrambling as to how we can get enough produce in to feed everyone.”

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A lack of tourists was hurting communities like Kalbarri in April.

Her seafood restaurant is advertising for chefs and wait staff but she said it is difficult when they have nowhere to stay apart from a bed in a mixed dormitory at a backpackers.

“Since reopening I have been trying to find accommodation,” Ms Finlay said.

“I have rented one place in town, a two bedroom place that I have three of my workers in, and I have just managed to secure an unfurnished four bedroom house which I have only got for three months.

“I have a full time chef, but I need more.”

She said a local pilot and an education assistant, working second jobs, were among her wait staff.

But the accommodation shortage was making it hard to attract staff from further afield.

A waitress delivers food to four diners in an al fresco area of a restaurant
Finlays restaurant is struggling to find staff because they have nowhere to live in the booming tourist town.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Cecile O’Connor)

She said the restaurant has the customers to open seven days but is currently only open five evenings and one lunch because of the lack of workers.

“We cannot provide the level, the quality, and it may impact badly on Kalbarri.”

Plea for long-term rentals

A social media post by real estate agency Ray White in Kalbarri pleaded for home owners to rent their properties to long-term tenants.

“Another cry for housing help,” it read.

“Ray White Kalbarri is desperate for permanent rentals.”

It listed a description of tenants looking for homes and ended with “this is only the tip of the iceberg”.

Kalbarri has benefited from the newly opened Skywalk over the Murchison River Gorge.

Figures from the visitor centre show 12,590 people went into the centre this August — 30 per cent more than the same time last year.

July 2020 was up 25 per cent on July last year.

A spokesman for the Northampton Shire Council, which takes in Kalbarri, said the council would consider any proposal for worker accommodation but was not in a position to fund a development.



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Shark kills man on Australia’s Gold Coast tourist strip


A shark has fatally mauled a man on Australia’s Gold Coast city tourist strip

CANBERRA, Australia — A shark fatally mauled a man on Tuesday on Australia’s Gold Coast city tourist strip, an official said.

The man was brought to shore by surfers at Greenmount Beach with critical injuries, Queensland state Ambulance Service spokesman Darren Brown said.

Paramedics determined the man was already dead on the beach, Brown said.

The death is only the second fatal shark attack on the Gold Coast since the city’s 85 beaches were first protected by shark nets and drum lines in 1962.

Sharks nets are suspended from floats and run parallel to beaches. Sharks can swim under the nets and around the ends of the nets.

No details were immediately available about the shark.

A Senate inquiry in 2017 found that Queensland shark nets create more harm than good. The Senate committee said nets give beachgoers a false sense of security while entangling and killing protected marine species including whales and turtles.

Australia’s last fatal shark attack was north of the Gold Coast near Fraser Island on July 4. A 36-year-old spear fisherman died hours after he was bitten on a leg.

A 60-year-old surfer was killed by a 3-meter (10-foot) great white shark at an unprotected beach south of the Gold Coast near Kingscliff on June 7.



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Ambitious proposal for Margaret River tourist hotspot known as ‘Kodak Corner’



A proposal to divert and develop a section of a popular tourist road in Margaret River has been described as “visionary and exciting” by Western Australia’s Minister for the Environment.

Caves Road runs for more than 100 kilometres between Busselton and Augusta, taking motorists through towering forests of Karri trees and the landmark vineyards which established the region on the international wine and tourism scene.

Proponents are lobbying for the most popular section of Caves Road at Boranup Forst, often referred to as Kodak Corner, to be closed off to traffic and replaced with walk trails and an interpretive museum, showcasing the indigenous and European history of the area.

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Tourists are left to wonder through the expansive forest along makeshift trails, with many taking the opportunity to carve their names or initials on the trees.

Wadandi custodian Wayne Webb, part of the consortium behind the proposal, said the continued degradation of the forest highlighted the need to introduce “structure and management” to the forest.

“At the moment, it’s a bit of a free-for-all and as you can see, it’s in danger of being loved to death,” Mr Webb told the ABC during a visit to Boranup Forest.

“We hope to introduce a bit of structure and management which would return this place to what it is, a beautiful, living thing with an incredible amount of history.”

‘Strong significance’

Under the proposal, a 2-kilometre section of Caves Road would be re-routed inland, closer to the original path of Caves Road, which was developed in the early 1900s to showcase the many caves in the region.

Mr Webb said many of the caves were used as burial grounds with some caves still retaining skeletal remains of Wadandi ancestors.

“The area has strong significance for us and the project would help shed light on that as well as giving Indigenous youth something to be proud of and work on,” Mr Webb said.

“But there is as a positive shared history as well with the timber industry that was common here.”

WA’s Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the proposal was “both visionary and exciting,” with potential to “create new ways for visitors to experience the nature and culture of the region.”

“The area has strong Aboriginal cultural connection to the local Wadandi people and a unique early settler history.”

A spokesperson for WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction said discussions were underway with local tourism authorities, but that the “concept requires further planning and analysis work to determine “potential benefits and constraints”.



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Ed the emu a tourist attraction, brooding on nest after partner dies


A pet male emu in WA’s south has continued to brood on an empty nest each year, despite his mate dying two years ago.

The tale of 26-year-old Ed has struck a chord with ABC Great Southern’s audiences, with thousands sharing an image of Ed brooding on the empty nest.

Ed belongs to Kojonup farmer Rino Guidi, who bought him and his mate together.

“We just let them go into the paddock … that’s where they lived,” Mr Guidi said.

Kojonup farmer Rino Guidi says he’s the only one who can “handle” Ed.(ABC Great Southern: Olivia Garnett)

Ed’s mate died two years ago, but each nesting season he continues to brood on the pair’s old nesting site.

“He’s been sitting down — he thinks he’s got eggs underneath him, but he ain’t,” Mr Guidi said.

Male emus perform the incubation of eggs, often without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest for weeks, according to the Australian Museum.

The male emu then raises the chicks for four to six months.

Ed has become something of a tourist attraction on Albany Highway, with tourists stopping for a photo.

“A lot of people ring me up or stop. A lot of people ask to go and have a look,” Mr Guidi said.

“I’m the only one who can handle him, only me. He chases others away.”



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PS Canally helping Morgan steam ahead with tourist attraction



A 113-year-old paddle steamer is continuing to make a valuable contribution to life on the River Murray at Morgan.

For almost a decade, community volunteers in the town have been helping restore PS Canally to its former glory.

In 2010, Mid Murray Deputy Mayor Kevin Myers organised a public meeting in Morgan to canvas support for bringing the paddle steamer from Robinvale in northwest Victoria back to the town for restoration.

He says there was strong support from the 50 community members who attended.

“It was all on the proviso that I obtain an initial $100,000 from Mid Murray Council to get the boat back to Berri from Robinvale because it leaked like a sieve,” Myers says.

The Canally complements the two other Mannum based historic riverboats owned by the council, the PS Marion and PS Mayflower.

Myers says the aim is to eventually offer cruises on the Morgan based riverboat.

The Canally was built in 1907, in Koondrook near Echuca and fitted with a steam locomotive engine in 1912.

Known as the Greyhound of the Murray, in its heyday, it was the fastest steamboat on the River Murray.

For 10 years, she delivered wool in Victoria from Echuca to towns along the Murrumbidgee River.

From 1919 until 1925, PS Canally was used as a transport boat, delivering dried fruit, wool and other produce from Berri to the Morgan Wharf, which was Australia’s busiest inland port.

PS Canally, circa 1920s, was once the fastest steamboat on the River Murray. Photo: Supplied

The goods were then transferred onto trains and delivered to Adelaide for export, mainly to the United Kingdom.

The Canally was also used as a workboat during the late 1920s to help install the locks and weirs along the River Murray.

By the 1940s, it was stripped of her machinery and used as a barge in Victoria until 1957, when the boat was finally moored at Boundary Bend in the state’s northwest.

The Canally eventually sank into the depths of the Murray and it wasn’t until the late 1990s, that she was retrieved by the Rivers and Riverboat Historical and Preservation Society in Robinvale.

In 2010, the Preservation Society donated the boat to the Mid Murray Council because some of the group were becoming a bit too old to restore the boat and their funds were running out.

Myers and a working bee of volunteers, including Morgan citrus grower Leigh Hausler, travelled to Robinvale in 2011 to prepare the boat for its journey to South Australia.

“When we got up there and Leigh walked over to the boat, I think he was pretty much swearing at me, and saying what have you got us into?” Myers laughs.

“It was sitting at the bottom of a little creek and it was half full of water,’” Hausler says.

Fortunately, the pump and the generator still worked and they were able to re-float the riverboat.

The Riverboat Society of Mildura used the Paddle Boat Impulse to tow PS Canally to Berri, with volunteers from Morgan on board the ship working frantically to keep her afloat.

The journey took three weeks and the boat’s hull was stabilised at Berri before it was transported to Morgan in October 2011.

The Mid Murray Council has so far contributed one million dollars towards the restoration of the boat.

Morgan volunteer Leigh Hausler and Mid Murray Deputy Mayor Kevin Myers have been involved in the restoration of the PS Canally for almost a decade. Photo: Christine Webster

Myers says community volunteers ranging in age from their teens to their 80s have been involved with the project.

Painting the boat has been one of the main tasks.

Myers says Cadell Training Centre inmates have also helped out, and some of the town’s youth have also volunteered, gaining a valuable work ethic and skills in heritage restoration.

The actual reconstruction of the paddle steamer was performed by qualified shipwrights, including Adam Auditori from Echuca who has donated many hours of his time.

About two-thirds of the project has been completed with the framework of the cabins and wheelhouse in place and the engine installed.

Hundreds of tourists have already visited the Canally restoration site and the Mid Murray Council has also drawn up plans for an Australian Paddle Steamers’ Hall of Fame to be established in Morgan.

The council also runs paddle steamer skipper and crew training.

Both Myers and Hausler have completed the crew training and Leigh is also training to be a volunteer skipper.

“Most of the existing skippers are 80 years old and they have been on the river all their life,” Hausler says.

“But they are getting to the stage where they don’t want to be in charge of the boat, so they are training people to take over.”

Regional Showcase is supporting South Australia’s rural communities by telling their stories and celebrating their successes. We will compile these stories and then later in the year we will celebrate the best of South Australia’s regions at a special showcase event.

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