ANOTHER tourist season, another breakdown at the Jardine River Ferry.
Today, tourists and locals are waiting on the roadside without an answer as to when the service will resume after a mechanical problem with the ferry.
For those on the northern side, they have the option of going back to town. For those on the southern side, the nearest town is Weipa and the nearest food is at the Bramwell Roadhouse.
Enough is enough. It’s time to build a bridge.
The current ferry is well past its use-by date – it has barely scraped through past safety inspections – yet is the only way to get in and out of the Northern Peninsula Area by road.
Money has been allocated for the bridge – $10 million was allocated by the federal government in 2015 to spend at the Jardine.
It didn’t get spent.
A bridge doesn’t appear to be a priority for the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council, which operates the ferry service at a profit.
But with local government elections looming in March next year, will it become an issue?
Most NPA locals would be happy to see a bridge. At the moment, they can’t drive out until 7am and have to be back at the ferry by 6pm to get home.
A bridge would provide 24-hour access in and out of the region, as well as provide greater freight opportunities for the NPA.
Then there’s the safety issue.
If someone breaks a leg at Fruit Bat Falls at 6pm, the ambulance in Bamaga has to arrange for the ferry operators to open up for both the trip across to get them and the trip back.
Alternatively, a helicopter has to be deployed from Horn Island.
The ferry itself can’t be too far off from being condemned. Sources say that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has warned NPARC that it faces that risk.
What happens at the Jardine River impacts most of Cape York tourism.
If people feel like the Tip of the Australian continent is off limits, they’ll go somewhere else. That impacts tourism operators right across the Peninsula.
While many people like the appeal of a ferry, it’s simply not practical for local people.
And it’s not cheap, either. If you’re a tourist, it’ll cost you $128 to get a return ticket. Even more if you’re towing a caravan.
It’s time to build a bridge.