The Cape York pilgrimage is one any self-respecting 4WD owner ought to have taken (or aspire to).
But there is now a push for visitors to have to pay to visit Cape York, and for tourists to be guided by rangers on their walk to the tip.
The journey, which grew in popularity while international borders were closed, takes place in the Northern Peninsula Area, which is Queensland’s northernmost mainland council area.
The NPA reckons 80,000 visitors have passed through since April, putting pressure on local communities, resources and the natural environment.
Earlier this year, reports emerged that certain Cape York destinations – Captain Bill’s Landing, Pajinka (the Tip), Ussher Point and Somerset – were closed off to tourists by traditional custodians, with a lack of amenities, off-track tourists and unregistered firearms being cited as major concerns.
Though this did not actually happen, the news arguably resulted in a busier season than usual, as people rushed to see Cape York in case it really was shut (it could also have been driven by FOMO from the pandemic situation in 2020, in which, during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Cape York was barricaded off from the rest of Queensland to protect its communities).
Now, after this busy season of 2021 has finished (the best time to visit is in the middle of the winter dry season), community leaders in the region are looking for ways to promote more sustainable tourism, and to better equip the region to benefit from the seasonal influx.
During this last season there was a mad rush for diesel, with providers almost running dry at points. The increased numbers of people in towns leading up the tip, too, exacerbated issues like water leaks, which in one case led to the closure of essential services (like the local school).
Supermarkets also struggled with the increased demand.
The town needs investment into old infrastructure to fix this. But according to the ABC, because the supermarket, servo and campgrounds are run privately, the council’s only income is the ferry.
The proposed fix to this is a charge to visit the area.
The ABC reports: “Traditional owners of Pajinka are planning to charge visitors on arrival to the area. The site was handed back to traditional owners in 2019, which gives them rights to manage the area.”
According to the ABC, Michael Solomon, the chair of the Gudang Yadhaykenu Aboriginal Corporation (GYAC) has said the corporation will be setting up an entry station to collect fees from tourists and that a fee would encourage more tourists to be more respectful, and give the owners the funds to create a better experience for tourists.
“GYAC is yet to decide on how much tourists would pay, or develop the infrastructure needed for a toll booth at the entry to Pajinka, but those in charge said earning income off the site would provide long-term benefits,” the ABC reports.
The ABC reports Mr Soloman saying: “If we would have the money, we could have solved a lot of problems with that place, lot of issues and all this stuff.”
“If you calculate all the dollars that went past, it could be there up and running; our generation could be walking by now. I want to make things happen for my, you know, future grandchildren, children and their children on this thing, you know, rest of the clan groups.”