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Kalbarri 'open for business' after Tropical Cyclone Seroja but residents are worried

Thursday May 6, 2021 - 02:42 EST
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Kalbarri residents Juanita Illingworth and Thierry Robez shortly after the cyclone. - ABC

Roadblocks into the cyclone-ravaged community of Kalbarri are due to be lifted from this evening, but some say it is too early and tourists should not be allowed back in for some weeks yet.

Thirty per cent of Kalbarri's buildings were destroyed and 80 per cent were damaged when Tropical Cyclone Seroja crossed the WA coast on April 11.

Since then permits have been required to enter the town and they have been restricted to those who live or own property there, essential services, assisting with the clean up and rebuild.

An online petition opposing the reopening has received more than 400 signatures in just over a day.

Resident Fleur Beere said she started the petition to ensure the community's voice was heard.

"It's just not safe for tourists at the moment and for us locals, we're not emotionally ready," she said.

"We can't have people coming in, we feel like they're going to snoop, it's just not time."

Ms Beere says there are few restaurants open and the community does not want to be bombarded.

"I understand our businesses need to survive and make money," she said.

"But I just can't see tourists coming in and doing that, I think they need government support."

Open for business

Northampton Shire includes the town of Kalbarri. Shire president Craig Simkin said the decision to reopen was made by the Department for Fire and Emergency Services.

"DFES the managing controllers believe the town was ready to open for business," he said.

"My feeling is that there are business houses here that are hurting and if it's open for business, it's open for business.

"It's going to be under a restricted regime, it's going to be highly policed, there'll be areas of the town that will be closed off and there are still people working in town from the agencies so it'll be controlled by DFES and the police, heavily."

Cr Simkin said he understood there was some concern in the community.

"There possibly will be division and people don't want people in town and people do want people in town but you've got to start somewhere," he said.

"You don't know what's going to happen until you open the gates and let them come in."

Restaurant owner Shane Fletcher has been unable to open his business as their asbestos roof needs to be replaced.

"Some non-restaurant owners definitely aren't in a hurry but there's so much infrastructure, stuff that's been washed away," he said.

"There are not even street signs in some spots, there's no stop signs, there's a speed limit of 40kmh through the whole of town.

"If you go to the beach you're not going to get the whole Kalbarri experience, as long as they don't let too many people in.

"I don't agree with it, but I understand some of the business owners maybe they need a little bit of cash flow."

The Kalbarri National Park is expected to open on Friday morning.

DFES did not provide a comment.


© ABC 2021

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