10 May 2023

Cape York feels the pain of high fuel prices

| Matt Nicholls
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RECORD breaking fuel prices are already starting to have an impact on Cape York residents and businesses but there are concerns the real pain will be felt during the tourist season.

As locals adjust to sharp price rises of more than 40 per cent, tourism operators and retailers are hoping the pain at the bowser eases before southerners begin their trips north.

“If these prices stay this high then I’m sure there will be many people reconsidering their travel plans,” said Dave Donald, the vice president of the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce.

“And if they do still travel, they are likely to have less money to spend on tours, souvenirs and eating out.

“I’m hopeful we’ll see prices drop soon because the Cape is preparing for a massive tourist season. All the borders are open and a lot of people are looking forward to making the trip north.”

Brooke Quartermaine runs Weipa Camping Ground and says the phone and email had been running hot all year with bookings and enquiries.

“We’ve had two full-time people in the office, plus me, which is one more than we normally have at this time of year,” she said.

“International travel is still a bit uncertain and people have been hanging out to come to the Cape.”

Ms Quartermaine said she was also concerned about the rising cost of fuel and admitted that it had a flow-on cost to her business.

“Freight will become more expensive, groceries will be dearer and the general cost of living will be harder on families,” she said.

Mick Davies owns the River of Gold motel and restaurant and is also the president of the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce.

He said it was too early to tell if fuel prices would remain high, but hoped they would ease quickly.

“It will definitely have an impact if things don’t change,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“People can take it short-term but in the long-term it will have a major effect.”

Mr Davies said the Cooktown and Cape York tourism industry relied on visitors from southern states and was concerned that they might change their plans if fuel prices didn’t ease.

“People might have a re-think about how long they go away for,” he said.

“Instead of five or six weeks, they might cut it back to two or three weeks.”

Fishing guides will likely introduce a fuel surcharge until prices drop.

Experienced fishing guide Mark Bargenquast runs a charter business out of Weipa and each of the boats in his fleet require around 70 litres of unleaded fuel per day.

“We are going to charge a fuel levy at around $50 per day per boat,” he said.

“It’s not something we like doing but we have told our clients and they understand.

“Everyone is feeling the pinch and I’ve spoken to other charter operators and they are going to do the same thing.”

The good news is that 2022 is going to be a busy one for the fishing guide industry.

“Everyone is booked out solid so it will be a busy year. We need a good year because we had a lot of cancellations due to COVID and border closures,” he said.

The Weipa Servicentre has copped plenty of criticism for its fuel prices on social media after making adjustments last week.

On Sunday, the cost of diesel was $2.51 while unleaded was $2.47.

Other outlets in Cape York had lower prices, but the blame could be put back on the Shell-owned Viva Energy, which has charged Weipa more per shipment of fuel than any other Queensland port.

Viva Energy charged $2.22 for unleaded at Weipa’s port, while Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone and Brisbane all paid less than $2 per litre.

For diesel, Viva Energy put a price tag of $2.29 for diesel, which was more than 10 cents per litre dearer than the other Queensland ports.

The Mapoon fuel bowsers were considerably cheaper than Weipa on Sunday, even though the fuel is sourced from Weipa, however that is owned by the council.

Similar situations pop up in other communities.


Archer River $2.48

Aurukun $2.20

Bamaga $2.26

Coen $2.05

Cooktown $2.15

Hope Vale $2.19

Kowanyama $2.05

Lakeland $1.93

Lockhart River $2.05

Musgrave Roadhouse $1.95

Thursday Island $2.09

Weipa $2.47


Archer River $2.50

Aurukun $2.40

Bamaga $2.09

Coen $2.00

Cooktown $2.35

Hope Vale $2.23

Kowanyama $2.05

Lakeland $1.83

Lockhart River $2.05

Musgrave Roadhouse $1.92

Thursday Island $2.09

Weipa $2.51

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