Alcohol restrictions on the Cape
  |  First Published: November 2003

RESTRICTIONS on alcohol consumption in Cape York Peninsula communities are certainly timely, but the government has opted for expediency rather than a measured approach to the problem in its haste to consolidate its ‘good guy’ image. There has been no thought given to indigenous rehabilitation issues or to the damage being done to the Cape’s burgeoning tourist industry, particularly that being currently developed, at considerable taxpayers’ expense, with the indigenous communities.

In the Weipa area, an alcohol management plan introduced in the local Napranum community has already caused disruption to drive-in tourist numbers. Details of the restricted areas have been sketchy, with even Weipa residents being unsure as to what the alcohol management plan entails. Very little Government thought has been given to the publicity campaign necessary to acquaint locals and visitors with the necessary details.

For instance, alcohol may not be carried into the Napranum-owned Pennefather River area but Mapoon’s Cullen Point and Janie Creek are not affected. Many visitors have assumed that the Mapoon areas are off limits, resulting in significant loss of permit fees to the local council. Napranum’s jurisdiction over the Hey and Embley rivers has caused uncertainty as to whether boaties may carry alcohol in their vessels while fishing this area.

I attended a recent major tourism workshop held in Weipa and discussions on the planning and ramifications of current and impending Cape alcohol plans took up most of the meeting – even though it wasn’t originally on the agenda. Most of the attendees, including indigenous representatives, agreed that the government must act quickly to clearly define and publicise the Cape’s restricted areas so that details are readily available before the 2004 drive-in tourist season.

To this end, I will be endeavouring to collect as much information as possible on the Cape’s alcohol restricted areas for a future edition of QFM so that both fishers and the touring public will have some firm information on the situation before next year’s season. With further alcohol management plans coming online in the coming months, it’s hoped that communities will carefully consider tourism access over their lands and customise the restricted areas rather than just issue blanket bans, as has been the case to date.

If you’re thinking of visiting the Cape but have been deterred by the negative publicity surrounding the alcohol restrictions, hopefully the situation will become clearer before the start of next year’s season. All we need is some commonsense planning and less political expediency.

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