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Local MPs slam border closure impact

By Brayden May

THE NSW-Victoria border closure is a case of too little, too late, according to Member for Murray Helen Dalton.

In a statement on Monday, Ms Dalton slammed the NSW Government for making what she said was a rushed decision.

“Ten days ago, I wrote an urgent letter to the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking her to put arrangements in place to manage the influx of Victorians to NSW for school holidays,” she said.

“Sadly, she’s waited until the last minute to hastily announce the closing of the border within 24 hours.

“While this is fine for people like her living on Sydney’s north shore, it’s caused distress for those in NSW border towns.

“In Moama, for example, many residents need to cross the border for work and to access essential medical services.

“The Sydney-centric NSW Government don’t seem to understand this.

“They’ve downgraded our services to such an extent that our small towns are dependent on Victoria.”

Victorian officials held a similar view to Ms Dalton with Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh declaring the decision will have a big impact on families and businesses.

“This closure is a dramatic and unprecedented move, but Daniel Andrews can’t tell us anything about what it means for us, despite being in the meeting with the Prime Minister and NSW Premier,” Mr Walsh said on Monday.

“Our communities and local economies have already been smashed by Victoria’s COVID-19 shutdowns. We are all prepared to do our bit to flatten the curve and save lives but for us to be dragged into Melbourne’s mess is a bitter blow to people in Echuca and Moama.”

Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell agreed with Mr Walsh.

“Border towns are really going to bear the brunt of the consequences of what is a metropolitan outbreak,” Ms Maxwell said.

“I appreciate the seriousness with which the spread of the pandemic needs to be managed, however towns with low and no cases continue to experience massive inconvenience and financial consequences as a result.

“Our communities would no doubt prefer controls on the movement of people to happen closer to Metropolitan Melbourne.”

Fellow Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell added: “The many border communities throughout my electorate have been through so much already, and I am under no illusion as to the impact of this unprecedented decision.

“I recognise this is going to create hardship and frustration for our border communities, but I know the resilience of my constituents along the Murray will shine through once again.

“NSW is doing this in good faith but make no mistake this does not give people a leave pass to travel to Melbourne and then think this permit will let them enter NSW.”

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the frustration in border communities was understandable.

“Premier Andrews, the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales have agreed to close the border between Victoria and New South Wales from tomorrow night,” they said.

“We know this is inconvenient, but it is being done out of an abundance of caution to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Enforcement will be a matter for New South Wales police, but the NSW government has confirmed Victorians can apply online for exemptions to move between the two states.

“More specific details of how the closure will operate for border communities, as well as industries who need to cross the border, is being worked through.”

The NSW Government has also been contacted for comment.

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