North Queensland National Parks aim to be open for Christmas

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Innovation The Honourable Leanne Linard
  • 65 National Parks have already reopened in North Queensland post-cyclone, in an effort to have natural tourist attractions ready for Christmas visitors.
  • A fee waiver is being considered for tourism businesses operating in national parks, to provide some small financial relief through the recovery period.
  • QPWS crews are giving priority assessment to parks in the Daintree, Cairns, Innisfail, Ingham, Atherton Tablelands and Great Barrier Reef Marine area.

As areas of Far North Queensland continue to recover from the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Jasper, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) officers are working hard to re-open the region’s national parks to assist the tourism industry get back on its feet as quickly as possible.

A total of 175 parks were in the affected area and already 65 have been re-opened to the public.

Rangers from outside the impacted area have been called in to assist in these efforts and are using a combination of aerial, vessel, and on-ground operations to respond as needed.

The conditions are very challenging, considering things like the uneven terrain, high water levels, damaged structures, and high humidity.

The Great Barrier Reef is safe to visit, but the marine ecosystem has been impacted and crews are currently out on the water to assess wind and tidal damage.

Initial reports from the outer reef around Cairns and Port Douglas is that there’s only been low levels of damage beneath the ocean’s surface.

The most visible damage has been to Michaelmas Cay, which has been overtopped by water leaving little vegetation and destroying sensitive shorebird nesting sites.

To help accelerate the reef’s recovery, crews that had been working to remove the crown of thorns starfish have been redeployed to instead work on reef and coral restoration.

More scientific testing will be required at regular intervals over the coming months to assess the impact of sediment runoff on seagrass beds and the health of the water for aquatic life.

Locals and visitors are reminded that it’s an offence to enter a closed park or disobey warning signs. Rangers will be around undertaking reinstatement activities and can issue fines to any individuals who put themselves in harm’s way.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Innovation Leanne Linard:

“An important part of the disaster response is to get the local economy back on track, and North Queensland’s natural attractions are key to that.

“I’ve asked the department to consider waiving national park fees for Commercial Tourism Operators in the far north, to help them in some small way as they begin rebuilding their businesses and ensuring Christmas visitors still have a great time in the tropics these holidays.

“Our rangers are working hard to assess the damage that’s been caused by the cyclone’s winds and subsequent flooding, so that we can plan the clean-up response.

“While the reef is safe to visit and the cyclone’s impacts appear to be minimal below the ocean’s surface, we have our crews taking action to limit any damage by undertaking reef and coral restoration works.

“The sooner we can clear the excess debris and repair any damage to infrastructure like walkways, bridges, and towers in national parks, the sooner we can re-open them for visitors and regular activities.

“Fortunately, there are many suburbs and beaches outside the disaster area in the Far North where we’re already seeing cafes, restaurants and businesses re-opening.

“Our commitment is to have our National Parks re-opened as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Check Park Alerts on the DESI website for information before you visit any National Park here:

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