THE areas which constitute 'outback' Queensland amid coronavirus restrictions being eased have been questioned by mayors disappointed to have missed out on the tag.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday announced the gradual easing of lockdown measures across the state, with 23 local government areas classed as 'outback' to be allowed greater freedoms sooner than coastal towns.
From next Saturday, up to 20 people in outback areas will be able to dine-in at cafes, restaurants and pubs, and they can drive up to 500km in their regions for recreational purposes.
Heavier restrictions apply in city and coastal towns, with restaurants able to seat 10 people at a time, with travel up to 150km accepted.
Charters Towers Regional Council Mayor Frank Beveridge said the coronavirus situation had cast a light on the region, which had again missed out on the outback tag due to its proximity to Townsvillle.
"One of the big problems we're striking with the Queensland Government is that our boundary is obviously fairly close to Townsville, yet Charters Towers is 130km away, so we pay the price for our geographic situation," Cr Beveridge said.
"Clearly we are the size of Tasmania and I think it's not really a fair assessment."
Cr Beveridge said missing out on the outback tag had ramifications beyond coronavirus restrictions.
"We are in a difficult position, as when outback towns get funding, we miss out.
"We will continue lobbying, previously council's have mentioned it but the COVID situation has really highlighted the downsides."
It is a similar situation in Goondiwindi, which has not been included in the outback category despite having no cases of the virus in the local government area. The neighboring Balonne Shire is included in the list.
Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg said he had spoken directly to Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young to seek clarification.
"It's a pretty tough decision, but the line had to be drawn somewhere and the Goondiwindi region is in that interesting boundary that is not really south east Queensland and yet not really outback," Cr Springborg said.
"Although there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the Goondiwindi region, there have been confirmed cases in some of our neighbouring regions."
Dr Young said the outback classification was about keeping people in remote areas safe.
"People in these adjacent areas can travel up to 150km from May 15 which may take them to areas with cases," Dr Young said.
"The boundary for outback Queensland was drawn to try to protect those people who live in remote Queensland.
"They do not have the same ready access to healthcare and their population tends to have a higher proportion of vulnerable people."
Dr Young said people should not be travelling into, or leaving, outback areas except for essential or compassionate reasons.
"Although it means people in outback Queensland have more freedom to move around that part of Queensland they can't leave the outback except for essential reasons such as work, education or healthcare or for compassionate reasons."
The 23 local government areas classed as outback include:
- Balonne Shire Council
- Banana Shire Council
- Barcaldine Regional Council
- Barcoo Shire Council
- Blackall-Tambo Regional Council
- Boulia Shire Council
- Bulloo Shire Council
- Carpentaria Shire Council
- Central Highlands Regional Council
- Cloncurry Shire Council
- Croydon Shire Council
- Diamantina Shire Council
- Etheridge Shire Council
- Flinders Shire Council
- Longreach Regional Council
- Maranoa Regional Council
- McKinlay Shire Council
- Mount Isa City Council
- Murweh Shire Council
- Paroo Shire Council
- Quilpie Shire Council
- Richmond Shire Council
- Winton Shire Council.
The story Outback Queensland defined amid COVID-19 restrictions first appeared on North Queensland Register.