The fight to scrap discriminatory restrictions for agricultural shows continues, with a petition against mandates gaining thousands of signatures in less than a week.
The petition was started by Sunshine Coast Show Society and Near North Coast Sub Chamber President Rowan O'Hara and is being sponsored in parliament by Member for Gympie MP Tony Perett.
Mr Perrett wrote a letter to the Queensland Premier at the beginning of last week asking for clarification on the restrictions preventing shows from being held on showgrounds without vaccine mandates, particularly after the Gympie show society recently made the difficult decision to postpone their show indefinitely.
The MP questioned the reasoning behind placing shows under vaccine mandates when other events, such as markets and sporting competitions, can be held on the showgrounds without any restrictions.
"There are different rules for different activities and for different organisations at the same grounds," Mr Perrett said.
"At the showgrounds a farmers' market is held, other events and training can be held, sports groups are using the grounds, and an evacuation centre was open with none of the requirements demanded of the Show Society."
As has been pointed out by the many show society's facing postponements and cancellations due to the restrictions, it is near impossible to run their events without losing volunteers, venders and patrons.
"The postponement, and potential cancellation, impacts not just the show and the broader community but also prevents fundraising for many community groups," Mr Perret said.
"The show provides one of the major fundraising avenues for many schools and P & Cs, kindergartens, sporting groups, community organisations, and service clubs.
"They raise funds from manning the gates, running the bars, cleaning facilities, parking, traffic control, and running food stalls.
"It will be a loss of tens of thousands of dollars across these groups. They will all be significantly impacted and everyone will miss out."
Mr O'Hara agreed with Mr Perrett, saying that even shows who were determined to run under the current restrictions were looking at huge financial losses.
Queensland agricultural shows add around $141 million to the state economy annually, with approximately $2.5 million coming from the Sunshine Coast regional show alone, but many are being forced to run at a loss due to forking out for extra security.
"We're looking at this from a financial and budget point of view," Mr O'Hara said.
"The situation between vaccinated and unvaccinated, we really don't care, that's a whole other debate.
"We want to make shows financially sustainable, and our biggest issue is that we're not hearing any response from the Minister or the Chief Health Officer.
"Our point of view is that you can run other events on showgrounds, in some cases events that are actually even bigger than the annual show.
"The Heavy Horse Expo ran out at Allora Showgrounds the weekend before last, with no check ins and well over 2000 people, but if they wanted to run the show with the majority of the same people a week later, they wouldn't be able to do it."
To date, the petition has gained 4299 signatures in just four days and will close on the 30th of March, before being tabled in parliament by Mr Perrett.
Mr O'Hara said Queensland Ag Shows had received no correspondence or assistance from Queensland Health or the State Government on the matter.
Queensland Country Life approached Queensland Health for clarity on whether or not the current restrictions on shows will be lifted and when show society's can expect this decision.
A Queensland Health spokesperson replied, stating that "the risks from COVID are not over yet."
"Easing restrictions has always been a phased approach and managed sensibly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Queenslanders," they said.
"Vaccination requirements for showgrounds do not specifically target one industry, rather the type of event being held in the community."
The spokesperson confirmed that community sporting events and markets did not have a vaccine requirement, while outdoor ticketed events such as shows, music and art festivals required proof of vaccination, but declined to comment on whether or not these rules will be overturned.
Another facet of the show debate is the disparity between the states, considering New South Wales show societies have not been shackled with the same restrictions that Queensland committees are experiencing.
New South Wales Ag Shows CEO Kim England said that the shows over the border had not been disrupted as much as those in Queensland, considering the vaccine restrictions were only in action for a few months at the end of last, when only a handful of shows were scheduled.
Since opening up their borders, the New South Wales government has lifted vaccine mandates on outdoor events such as agricultural shows, thus their societies are able to run their events this year without the crippling restrictions being faced by Queensland committees.
Also read: Country shows postpone under COVID pressure
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