Moonshine being brewed illegally in FNQ community
Sugar sales in the Cape York Aurukun community have been restricted after the arrest of alleged moonshiners.
It is understood the home brew operation was a reaction to coronavirus checkpoints that have put the squeeze on sly groggers.
A Mornington Island man, 37, was arrested in Aurukun for allegedly being in possession of 10 litres of moonshine earlier this month.
He is due to appear in Aurukun Magistrates Court on July 15.
Since the arrest, Mayor Keri Tamwoy has limited sugar sales at the Aurukun store to one bag a customer.
Cr Tamwoy said "pallets" of sugar were being sold at a time through the store.
"We asked the shop to limit sales because it was reported people were buying pallets of it," she said.
"If you are buying a whole pallet of sugar - about 16-18 bags at a time - it's certainly not because you are having a lot of tea parties."
Cr Tamwoy said the home-brew scene had been fermenting in Aurukun for "a couple of years".
"I had raised it in one of our meetings before I was elected," she said.
Police are now tracking overall sugar sales in the community. The potent home brew - often fermented for days in backyard wheelie bins from rotten fruit, sugar and other ingredients - is known to cause severe side effects including blindness.
"It was a very big problem in Mornington Island," Aurukun Community Co-ordinator Duane Amos said.
"It can make you go blind," he said.
The bin-brewed concoction is often more than 95 per cent methanol, which Mr Amos likened to "drinking methylated spirits."
"Then you have compounding health issues that can damage liver and kidneys," he said.
"It is a very crude product."
He said checkpoints on the roads leading to Aurukun had denied sly groggers their usual access corridors into the town.
"Once the knowledge of home brew goes out it has further effects in the community." Mr Amos said.
Aside from its use as a precursor agent in home brew, it is understood that sugar is eaten straight from the bag.
"A lot of locals use sugar as a food source - kids eat it by the packet," Mr Amos said.
Fines of up to $25,355 can be imposed on offenders who are convicted of possessing part or all of a home-brew kit, equipment used to brew alcohol, home-brew concentrate or supplying home-brew to another person in Aurukun