ACCESS DENIED: Tourists locked out of Cape York

 

CAMPERS could be locked out of some of the Far North's remote beauty spots ahead of an important season for Cape York tourism.

A major upheaval could hinder access to bucket-list destinations, with Indigenous leaders moving to shut out visitors in some cases or charge fees for access to freehold land.

Pent-up demand following COVID-19 biosecurity lockouts last year has meant thousands of travellers excited to hit the road on a dream trip to the Tip are counting down to Easter school holidays and the Peninsula Development Road being declared open.

However, despite being within state-managed national parks, camping spots such as Bathurst Heads, Janie Creek and Vrilya Point are not expected to open when the dry season arrives.

Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, in the Far North. Picture: Supplied
Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, in the Far North. Picture: Supplied

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A Department of Environment and Science spokesman said the lockout was due to "local authority road closures".

It's understood traditional owner frustration with "people doing the wrong thing" has been behind the lockouts.

Long-term Bamaga resident and Cape York guide book author Tracy Sands said she had been in contact with Hope Vale, Mapoon and Northern Peninsula authorities.

"It comes back to a lack of respect and people doing stupid things," she said.

"I went up (to the Tip) last year and there was idiots fishing in the nude and the (travellers sticking) plaques at the top of the cliffs.

"People up here are the most amazing people but they can only take so much before they close things down."

Ms Sands said though the state could control access to Cape national parks, native title claims on freehold land trumped state authority.

Cape York is a bucket-list destination.
Cape York is a bucket-list destination.

Pajinka traditional owner Michael Solomon was concerned about volumes of visitors using the Tip walking track car park without toilet facilities and a general "lack of respect" on land owned by the Gudang/Yadhaykenu Aboriginal Corporation.

"We want control, it's respect," he said.

"They make new tracks and (go) fishing in the nude, there is a lot of issues up here, they cross the (Jardine) ferry and go anywhere.

"My concern is the toilet and when tourists come, they go into the bush, and littering."

A proposal to charge access to camping spots on land north of the Jardine River was to be discussed at a meeting of traditional owners on Monday.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch feared the possible flow-on effects of closures on local business and demanded Cape York national parks be open for the Easter rush.

The Jardine River ferry is the final major river crossing before reaching the Tip of Cape York.
The Jardine River ferry is the final major river crossing before reaching the Tip of Cape York.

"The bloody state government needs to extract their digit and open the bloody national parks; it's not just the campers that are going to miss out, and these are the people that have supported small business for so long," he said.

"For longer and longer periods, they delay the opening of the parks and lock it down and don't give a stuff."

A DES spokesman said visitors doing the wrong thing could close parks "if their actions have degraded the environment or made park infrastructure unsafe", however he wouldn't comment on management of land by traditional owners.

Originally published as ACCESS DENIED: Tourists locked out of Cape York


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