10 May 2023

Future of Bramwell is up in the air

| Matt Nicholls
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Stopping at Bramwell Tourist Park has become a rite of passage for Cape York tourists.

THE future of two iconic tourism destinations is unclear as the state government fumbles over deals to keep them running beyond the end of the month.

Bramwell Station was bought by the Queensland government for $11.5 million in February this year and the sale included the famous tourist park and roadhouse, as well as 130,000 hectares.

The businesses have been kept running by Wendy Kozicka and Vince Bowyer, who sub-leased the operations.

However, in just three weeks, the keys get handed back to the state government.

“I have no idea who is taking over and I’m not even sure they do,” Ms Kozicka told Cape York Weekly on Sunday.

“All I know is I’m doing the handover on the 30th of this month and I’ll be meeting my obligations.”

Ken Godfrey, who has leased the Bramwell Tourist Park off Ms Kozicka and Mr Bowyer for a number of years, growing it into a major tourist destination, said he was unsure if he would return in 2023.

“When I know you’ll know,” he said.

“I’ve put in an expression of interest but I haven’t heard anything.”

The number plate tree at the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse.

While the state has made it clear it has no intention to shut down either business in the long-term, there are concerns about the handling of the new leases and the transparency of arrangements.

“I’m not aware of any advertisements asking for expressions of interest,” Ms Kozicka said.

“All I know is the tourist park has two years of bookings and I’ll be devastated if they let it run into the ground after all the work that was put in.”

Cape York Weekly sent a list of questions to the Department of Environment and Science on Monday morning, however did not receive a response before deadline.

A Department spokesperson did ring to say that Cape York locals and tourists should not be concerned about the future of the tourist park and roadhouse.

Editor’s note:A response has since been sent and is at the bottom of the article.

Ms Kozicka said there was much more to the handover than the roadhouse and tourist park.

“It’s quite an enterprise out here,” she said from the station homestead.

“There’s things like switching over the phones and also the Bramwell Rural Fire Brigade.

“I’m hoping they’ve got it all handled.”

The Bramwell Junction Roadhouse kick-starts most trips on the Old Telegraph Track.

Western Cape Chamber of Commerce president Vance Wallin said the long-term future of the roadhouse and tourist park were crucial for the whole region’s economy.

“Bramwell is perfectly located at the start of the Old Telegraph Track and about halfway between the Archer River Roadhouse and the Jardine River Ferry,” he said.

“We need more tourism infrastructure in the Cape, not less, so I hope the state government keeps its commitment to keeping the businesses running.

“A lot of tour companies stop at Bramwell and there aren’t many alternatives along that road as I imagine Moreton (Telegraph Station) is also well booked.”

When announcing the purchase earlier this year, the state government said it would keep the businesses running.

“The roadhouse and tourist park are vital to the local economy and the tourism industry and we will ensure provisions are made to allow these facilities to continue operating,” Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was “one of the most significant purchases in Queensland history”.

“Conserving and returning this land to Traditional Owners will create jobs and opportunities for local workers in the future,” she said at the time.

Minister Scanlon added: “Through the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program, we will negotiate for which areas of the land will be made jointly managed national park and which areas become Aboriginal freehold land.”

UPDATE: The Department sent a response, which can be attributed to a spokesperson:

The Queensland Government has no intention of closing the tourist park or the roadhouse.

This was clearly stated in the Minister’s media statement of 24 February this year and nothing has changed.

The tourist park and roadhouse will be managed under sublease arrangements, with the Department of Environment and Science (DES) retaining ownership of the head lease (which was settled in February 2022) on behalf of the Queensland Government.

An announcement about management arrangements of the tourist park and roadhouse will be made when the subleasing processes are finalised, which is expected to occur by the end of this month.

To avoid the risk of disruptions to fuel supply and secure vital services for the region, DES requested proposals from known interested parties.

In terms of converting the Bramwell and Richardson stations to national parks, these processes necessarily take time to complete and involve ongoing planning by DES, in consultation with First Nations peoples.

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