Confusion reigns over border “bubble”

By Andrew Johnston

ECHUCA-Moama is still searching for answers.

Member for Murray Helen Dalton has called on the NSW Government to clarify if local residents can freely travel between the twin towns.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies. My offices are inundated with calls because the information is not forthcoming, and even when we do, the messaging is inconsistent.

“We had a teleconference on Wednesday, and we've discussed that we want a fact sheet that can be updated daily, as well as frequently asked questions that we can publish online so people can know exactly what they can do.”

It comes as many local residents remain in the dark as to whether they can freely travel within the community. Clarity has not been forthcoming as to where residents can and can’t travel during the closure.

The Riverine Herald sought clarification on Wednesday from NSW Police as to what the “sensible bubble” referenced by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller in his press conference on Tuesday meant, but was told there was no strict meaning to the expression.

“There is no strict definition of the border bubble,” a NSW Police media spokesperson said.

“The commissioner and premier were using it to describe the twin towns along the border, as the locals.

“As we understand it, residents of those areas should be able to apply for exemptions that allow for fairly free to-and-from travel each side.

“This operation is very fluid and as police uncover issues for the community, we are raising them and doing what’s possible to minimise the impact on daily life.”

Residents in Echuca-Moama have successfully applied for Type C border permits in the past 48 hours, which “… may only be used for the purpose of entering NSW for work, education or daily life.”

But "daily life" as a term is also unclear.

A Moama resident said his business had been asked to remove a Facebook post which said Victorian residents within 50 km could attend their venue, because towns like Rochester, Kyabram and Lockington were classified as outside the bubble.

They also said there was an issue on a personal level when crossing the bridge.

“I went to the gym on Wednesday night from Moama. While travelling back with my licence and my permit I was threatened with quarantine because I should only be going in for essential services.

“I was told I needed a legitimate reason for going. I went home, but decided to go back and get more information. I went back, parked my car and asked to speak to the most senior officer, who told me they haven’t been given a script or clear guidelines.

“One guy can say one thing, another can say something else at a different time. The police have handled this incredibly well, they’re always being polite and trying to do everything the right way, but it’s clear they are not getting the correct information.”

NSW Police were contacted for comment on the resident’s concerns.

Another resident was told on Thursday they would not be stopped from going to Moama for a meal.

Residents in possession of these permits will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days after entering NSW, and the permits will be active for 14 days after they are issued.

However, it is also stated on the permits that “if you travel outside of your border community you will be required to self-isolate and wait 14 days until you can re-apply for a new permit.”