8 May 2024

$952 toilet paper freight bill highlights ongoing PDR failure

| Lyndon Keane
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Weipa Town Authority Chair Jaime Gane inspects the state of some of the Peninsula Developmental Road’s potholes and washouts during a road trip to Musgrave Roadhouse last weekend. Photo: Supplied.

A Weipa tourism operator says she had no option but to pay almost $1,000 to sea freight an urgent supply of toilet paper due to the abysmal post-wet season condition of the Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR).

Weipa Camping Ground owner Brooke Quartermaine said she had been stunned by the invoice, which equated to about $20 extra per roll for a pallet – 48 rolls – of the industrial toilet paper used by the business.

“Unfortunately, because of Jasper last year, it came in so quickly, we weren’t really prepared, and we couldn’t get some of our bigger freight up,” she said.

“Normally, we wouldn’t use Sea Swift because it is a bit too expensive for us in the wet season, but we got a bit stuck this year.

“I think it was $952 for a pallet of toilet paper.”

With the product costing $42 per roll to supply, the freight charge means guests during the 2024 dry season will use what is likely the most expensive toilet paper in Australia during their Weipa experience.

READ ALSO ‘Definite’ argument for second sea freight option as PDR fight draws on: WCCC

Ms Quartermaine said while it was amusing to ponder $62 toilet paper, it reflected a serious situation that would remain for local businesses unless the PDR seal was completed as a priority.

“As far as how critical the road is, given the cost of business has just gone up and up and up … it’s nearly not viable in the real world [to not have a year-round road freight option],” she said.

“We really only operate for six months of the year, so we’re trying to eliminate as many costs as possible.

“Having things like the PDR [sealed] just changes everything.”

Cape York Weekly asked both Minister for Transport and Main Roads Bart Mellish and opposition leader David Crisafulli if they would commit to delivering the remaining stages of the Cape York Region Package (CYRP) if elected to power at the October state election.

Minister Mellish did not respond to the question, with a TMR spokesperson providing a list of information points about the PDR and stating the department would now “carry out grading and maintenance repairs along the entire PDR until the next wet season starts”.

Mr Crisafulli also refused to make a PDR commitment, with an LNP spokesperson blaming financial mismanagement by the government.

“Labor’s waste continues to cost Cape York, and the tens of billions of dollars Labor has wasted on cost blowouts on infrastructure would have more than funded the Peninsula Developmental Road,” the spokesperson said.

READ ALSO Letter from the Editor: Potholes, toilet rolls and royalties ransom

Weipa Town Authority Chair Jaime Gane said the government’s reluctance to commit to finalising the CYRP was unacceptable, adding it was “absolutely critical” the PDR was sealed.”

“I think the relevant parties should all get in their cars and drive the PDR for a start; maybe then, they would understand the impact it would have to the people of the Cape,” she said.

“But in all seriousness, I think it requires a united front by all Cape York communities, advocacy groups and relevant bodies to demand the timely completion of the project.

“The completion of the PDR is the key to having a more diverse and sustainable economy for Weipa, so that our opportunities are not governed by the seasons.

“There is so much opportunity in Weipa and the western Cape, but it’s not a great incentive for existing or new business to grow or establish in the region when you can’t confidently plan for anything outside of the dry season.

“It’s also key for the liveability of residents, and their ability to travel in and out of town year round with their vehicles.”

The only road linking Cape York and Cairns post-wet season. Not an unusual sight for locals, but one business owners and groups say must change if the region is to remain sustainable. Photo: Facebook (Coen Mechanical).

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