When the Covid-19 pandemic started to show itself in Australia in early March after the fiasco with the Ruby Princess passengers, the Queensland Government acted swiftly with some draconian measures to halt the spread of the virus. Travel beyond a few kilometres of your residence was banned except for “essential” activities such as going to work or seeking medical advice. Schools were closed and students attended via distance learning. Gatherings for events such as funerals and weddings were very severely restricted. Churches and cinemas were closed. Public meetings were banned. People were encouraged to stay home and only go out for exercise. Special encouragement to stay home was given to populations deemed “at risk” such as those over 65 and those with medical conditions.
Bribie has a median population age of 62 (meaning that 50% of the population is older than 62) so it was greatly affected by these restrictions. Many heeded the encouragements and locked themselves in. The number of visitors dropped to almost zero. Churches, concerts, cinemas, markets and community gatherings were all cancelled. Businesses in the hospitality industry (such as vacation accommodations, coffee shops and restaurants) were particularly hard hit. Enterprising businesses established home delivery services.
So what was learnt from this experience? Here are MyBribieIsland’s “Top Five” learnings:
BRIBIE BRIDGE: We learnt that with no visitor traffic coming and going to Bribie, the much-maligned Bribie Bridge was more than adequate for the population that lives on Bribie. It is more than adequate, also, for the anticipated increase of about 10, 000 in population over the next couple of decades. The engineering assessment carried out around 2014 by the Newman Government showed the bridge would be structurally OK until the mid-2030’s. This does raise some questions. Why would we need to spend $150m (or more) for a new bridge to cater just for visitor traffic? Would it be better to solve that problem of visitor traffic with better public transport, park-and-ride facilities for major events like the Sandstone Point Tavern’s concerts, or banning 4WD traffic which is destroying our beaches?
BRIBIE ISLAND ROAD: We also learnt that the much-maligned Bribie Island Road was more than adequate for the existing population of Bribie and for the proposed future population. It is primarily visitor traffic that is causing the problems that residents complain about. Admittedly there are some pinch-points and some safety concerns that need to be addressed. But to upgrade the whole of Bribie Island Road to a 4-lane highway would cost in excess of $250m. Is it appropriate to spend $250m to solve the problem of visitor traffic? Are other options to solve that traffic available? Are there needs on Bribie such as the need for improved 24/7 medical care that are more pressing?
HOME DELIVERIES: While the major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths and IGA continued their home delivery services for established customers, they did not take on any new customers except in special circumstances. Some enterprising businesses stepped forward to fill that need and began home delivery of goods and services such as fruit and vegetables and hardware and pharmaceuticals. We learnt that Bribie Islanders found they could get just about any of their essential daily needs delivered. MBI recommends that Bribie Islanders reward those enterprising businesses by continuing to do business with them when restrictions are lifted.
AGED CARE: Care of the aged is one of the major industries on Bribie. Our local facilities have come through this difficult period without the catastrophes we have seen elsewhere. However the Covid pandemic has placed aged care facilities everywhere under a real cloud. More and more people will demand home-care rather than institutional care. However, there are no Bribie-based NDIS-approved providers who can administer such care. They are all off-island based. We learnt that Bribie-based support organizations can deliver the NDIS support but cannot administer those NDIS funds. And as recent TV reports have shown us, those administrators can be taking over 50% of the NDIS funding just to administer the funds. Those Bribie-based support providers need the support of the Bribie community to expand their services into administration as well as home care delivery.
BRIBIE’S BEACHES: QPWS records show that approximately 85% of 4WD beach driving permits issued go to non-residents of Bribie. And during the Covid restrictions, beach 4WD’ing was banned altogether. We learnt that during this period when 4WD’ing was banned, the beaches very visibly recovered from much of the damage that had been previously done. In addition, the beaches became much safer without all that uncontrolled traffic and as a result there was far greater use of the beaches for environmentally friendly activities such as cycling, walking, family picnics, and fishing. This does raise the question about why approximately half of Bribie’s eastern beaches are turned over to the exclusive use of a small group of mainly off-island 4WD’ers who make little or no contribution to Bribie’s economy and are downgrading the area and making it virtually unusable for others.
Do MBI readers agree with these “Top Five” learnings? What learnings do MBI readers want to add to this list?