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Community Enterprise Queensland (CEQ) has again ensured the supply of food to remote Cape York communities during the wet season by using airplanes to transport essential freight.

The not-for-profit remote store operator usually delivers supplies to its supermarkets in the Indigenous communities of Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, and Doomadgee by road through its truck network.

However, during the wet season, CEQ utilises planes to guarantee food supply to local residents.

During the recent wet season from 1 November 2021 to 31 March 2022, CEQ has:

  • spent almost $500,000 on 26 separate air charters to Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, and Doomadgee
  • delivered 87,000 kilograms of produce to these communities.

CEQ Chief Executive Officer Ian Copeland said the strategy is a win-win, with the use of airplanes to transport goods having zero effect on the price of goods for customers in store.

“We see it as our job during the wet season to go the extra mile to ensure essential goods are supplied to the remote Cape York communities we serve,” Mr Copeland said.

“Our warehouses were filled to capacity prior to the wet season arriving, and we delivered goods by truck as per normal until the wet weather stopped them getting through.

“Since then, we have been utilising planes in Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw and Doomadgee to get the necessary food supplies through to residents in these communities via air freight, at no extra cost at the cash register.”

Mr Copeland said most stores had received at least one delivery per week, with up to four tonnes supplied in one delivery.

“Freezer, chiller, and perishable items are all handled to food safety standards, with stock temperature checked upon departure and arrival,” he said.

“As needed, data loggers track the temperature of goods to ensure compliance and safety.

“Keeping our stores well stocked is particularly important during the wet season, as we’re also often called upon to supply water and essential items in these areas as part of the State’s disaster response efforts.

“These flights are necessary to ensure food security and the health of our communities.”

CEQ is a not-for-profit organisation responsible for providing goods and essential services to the Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), and mainland Aboriginal remote communities through its 28 stores.

CEQ’s Corporate Office is based in Cairns, and manages Islanders Board of Industry and Service (IBIS) and Aboriginal Business, Industry and Service (ABIS) remote stores, as well as other stores including Col Jones and Mitre 10 on Thursday Island.