Flinders Island Diary Sunday March 29, 2020

In Archive, Covid 19, Flinders Island by Fran Bryson

Map of Furneaux Group, Flinders Island,Tasmania, Australia.

On Flinders Island, as everywhere in the world, it’s not business as usual. But residents are still able to take advantage of the weather to go fishing in small boats or from beaches. People fish a lot on Flinders, but now they do so more than ever, in the hope of stocking freezers and sharing the catch around. On Wednesday Chris dropped me in some flake. On Friday Mark gave me some flathead after feeding me BBQ’d muttonbirds that he’d saved from last year’s season. Neighbour Tony just sent me a message saying he’s on to some more flatty, suggested I start chopping potatoes for chips. Deb and Bev have each given me tomato relish. Judy has been sharing zucchinis and tomatoes. This sort of generosity is normal on Flinders Island but in the last week more people than usual have been coming through my gate with an offering.

While you never see a traffic jam on a road on Flinders, I’ve noticed the rumble of fewer engines these last few days. Council has closed nearly all its facilities including the two small gyms. People can’t make their Sunday drive to church, nor to the pub. I think you can still play golf, but only in pairs. Even the Lady Barron rubbish tip, relatively busy most Sundays, is quieter.

The skies, too, are almost silent. The aircraft that usually land at one of the two airstrips at Lady Barron have been rerouted to our main airport, thirty kilometres north of home. This is so passengers can be logged and tracked. Not since aircraft across southern Australia were grounded by contaminated aviation fuel have our skies been so quiet. That was about twenty years ago. But even then Hughey, our mail carrier, could fly in and out of Lady Barron because he had a stockpile of clean fuel; no doubt bought when the oil market was down.

Being the only shop on the Island open on a Sunday, the Lady Barron Store is usually so busy there’s a queue at the cash register. Today, shoppers were scuttling in and out, not stopping to pass the time of day with one another. Unheard of. Usually, of a Sunday, on the shop’s patio, I’ll greet residents from Whitemark or Emita who have driven ‘down’ to Lady Barron for shopping, coffee and a catch up; they may have been heading for lunch at the Furneaux Tavern. Not anymore.

Yes, we’ve had hoarding. But mostly, so the reports go, from tourists. Go figure: tourists had been spotting products available here that were not as readily available at home and so were buying up. So foreign is this kind of behaviour that it took a little while for shopkeepers to get on top of the practice.

Now the visitors have gone, there is toilet paper on the shelves. At Lady Barron this morning there were ten single rolls that everyone knows is all, until Tuesday when the freight boat might bring more. Might. Staff at the shop have reported their frustration in trying to order stock.

I guess the tourists don’t realise that supermarket-wise we are the bottom of the food-chain. That producers and distributors seem to be prioritising Woolworths and Coles. And I guess it doesn’t occur to these people that we can’t just pop to the next suburb to get what we need. There are two small supermarkets on Flinders Island and if they don’t have any left, too bad. Milk and veggies might be flown in between boats, otherwise whatever Vicky, at the Lady Barron store, has been able to order might come in on Tuesday. Might.

The Tasmanian parliament coined a term this week that was new to both me and Google. It’s the day to look forward to: Emergency Cessation Day. No, I didn’t make it up – it’s in a new State Government Act passed this week. The Director of Health, as I understand it, advises the Minister that things have settled down and the Minister, within 90 days of being so advised, will declare a day that will be Emergency Cessation Day. Can’t wait.