Owner of Riversands Vineyards in St George David Blacket is looking forward to welcoming back tourists as the Balonne Shire moves into eased coronavirus restrictions.
Owner of Riversands Vineyards in St George David Blacket is looking forward to welcoming back tourists as the Balonne Shire moves into eased coronavirus restrictions.

‘Mixed emotions’: Shire responds to restrictions easing

THE latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions from Monday, June 1 has been met by measured excitement from tourism operators and hospitality businesses in St George as customers begin their return.

While Balonne Shire Mayor Samantha O’Toole says it presents a mixed bag of emotions in the community.

“I think businesses are excited to be up and running again but the broader community is concerned about the possibility of a second wave of transmission in the community,” she said.

Cr O’Toole said tourist businesses had been hard hit by the coronavirus and what the community had hoped would be an excellent tourist season was far from usual. She hoped the Queensland borders would open before the school holidays to help them recoup some business.

From a health perspective she wanted to reassure the community that the local disaster management group had done so much work on a coronavirus response that if there was an outbreak to occur they would be ready to deal with it.

Riversands Winery owner David Blacket predicts the improvement to business resulting from the eased restrictions would be steady.

“It probably won’t go from trickle to floodgate,” he said.

Mr Blacket said at this time of year their usual trade was composed of 50 per cent interstate visitors and 50 per cent from Queensland South East.

“We’ve had neither of those,” he said.

“The lifting of these restrictions is a good step forward and one we’ve been lobbying hard for. We just need the border restrictions moved forward to the start of the school holidays.”

Pelican Rest Tourist Park manager Jenny Sykes said they’d received two or three calls from people interested in accommodation and one person coming in July had brought their stay forward to the school holidays.

Ms Sykes said they expected most of their winter customers to come from Victoria.

“If the borders stay closed we’ll just cross our fingers it’ll improve,” she said.

Aussie Hotel’s Kathy McPhie said it would take about a week to get their business running again and new staff trained after they received news Monday of the easing of restrictions but she expected locals to return quickly.

“It’s a big job to reopen,” she said.

“We’re allowed 20 people per area. People are desperate to come in. We get calls all the time from people saying when are you opening.”

The Stage 2 easing of restrictions that came into force on June 1 allow unlimited travel and overnight stays for all Queenslanders and gatherings of up to 20 people.

Up to 20 people are now allowed to gather in areas including homes, restaurants and pubs, public spaces, gyms, swimming pools, art galleries, museums, playgrounds, cinemas, zoos, amusement parks, theatres, libraries and beauty salons and up to 50 people are allowed at funerals. Recreational travel, camping and accommodation is permitted across the state.

Articles contributed by Margie Maccoll are supported by the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas.