Locals dismayed at border closure

By Andrew Johnston

A SOLID border between Echuca and Moama will be a major issue for the local community, according to Echuca Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie.

Ms Mackenzie said the restrictions were driving a wedge through the middle of the community.

“It's going to be a very challenging time,” she said.

“We are one community, and it will be a struggle to keep the whole community going through this time. It draws a divisive line straight down the middle.

“Through everything we have operated as one community, we have supported each other, we have looked after each other. Now suddenly our community has been divided.”

While some regional Victorians are still able to travel to Echuca, the NSW Government has requested its residents not travel to border towns unless absolutely necessary.

It has left Moama excommunicated, which will be a disaster for local businesses.

“We hold the concerns for our residents, but we also hold the concerns for our local businesses and what the border lockdown is going to do to them as well,” she said.

“We have an entire accommodation sector in Moama which is going to be left empty, people can't travel to play golf or bowls, they can't even go out and get a meal. It could be devastating for those who run businesses.”

But Ms Mackenzie said it was far more than a business issue.

“It's about the morale of our town during challenging times,” she said.

“We need to be able to go about our daily lives in a way which can boost how we feel. People need to be able to see their friends, juniors need to be able to play sport.

“There will be families split up by this change, which will present some incredible challenges to our community.”

Echuca Moama Accommodation Association president Grant Casbolt said locals were already suffering, and expected these changes would only make things worse.

“These changes are going to greatly victimise the towns,” he said.

“It's going to decimate NSW operators who are already struggling; there will unfortunately be major repercussions from these changes. It's going to hurt a lot of people within the community.”

C4EM chairman Geoff Kelly said while the community understood why measures needed to be made, some more common sense should have been applied.

“Everyone knows how serious this issue is,” he said.

“But clearly there is some ability to be more conservative along the river regions where these measures have such an impact.

“If they can justify it based on numbers, we would accept that, but the numbers don't suggest the issue is here, so it makes it hard to cop.”