The Indigenous shire of Doomadgee, in north west Queensland, is in the process of swapping from unleaded fuel to a low aromatic variety designed so it cannot be sniffed to get high.

Deputy Mayor Myron Johnny said with more young people in the community sniffing petrol, the decision had been made to bring back Opal fuel, which had previously been in the town from October 2018 until its removal in May 2019.

Cr Johnny said he and other community members were concerned more young people would lose their lives if the fuel was not removed.

“There’s the one case with the little grandson of mine,” he said

“Stuff like that destroys your life you know, when you get into these things.”

During the period when Opal fuel was in Doomadgee, the North West Hospital and Health Service did not record any patients presenting for petrol sniffing related treatment.

From April 2019 until the end of October this year the service confirmed 20 patients needed treatment for sniffing.

A spokesman for the National Indigenous Australians Agency said the decision to stop supplying low aromatic fuel was one taken by the shire’s former council.

Pressure grows to force Opal fuel sales in bush
Opal fuel was removed from the town because of a perception that it damaged vehicles. BP and police say that is not the case.(ABC TV)

Crime concerns

Cr Johnny said the move to low aromatic fuel had the support of police.

“Basically the kids are sniffing and [committing] breaking and enters,” he said.

“There’s a lot of breaking and enters now and it’s mainly from the sniffers.

“Last fortnight ago the [local service station] was broken into, and the bowsers got broken into.

“The unleaded side hoses were out — fortunately they couldn’t get anything out, because you have to switch it on to get it out.”

Cr Johnny said the unleaded fuel was reintroduced because of concerns that the low aromatic fuel could damage cars and boats.

But Opal producer BP Australia has done extensive testing and found no evidence to support the claims.

Opal fuel is subsidised under the Australian Government’s petrol sniffing prevention program to ensure it is priced at the same rate as regular unleaded fuel.

A man in a police uniform talks into a microphone at an ABC radio studio.
Inspector Andrew Gillies says petrol sniffing leads to “very poor decisions”.(ABC North West Queensland)

Police support decision

Mount Isa Patrol Group Inspector Andrew Gillies said the decision was vital.

“It’s massively important not only to reduce crime but also to help with impacts of the young people in community and also for the community itself,” Inspector Gillies said.

“The Mount Isa District fully supports the decision from the council to reintroduce Opal fuel.

“It’s the health impacts, the impact on their brains, their neurological systems, which then has an impact on crime and has them making very poor decisions, which has been occurring.

“The inference that Opal fuel affects the performance of engines, whether it be cars or boats, has been scientifically disproven.”

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