Politicians call for expansion of border zone

By Andrew Johnston

POLITICIANS throughout the region say border restrictions are absurd, believing NSW residents should be able to travel further into Victoria.

State Member for Murray Helen Dalton has called on the NSW Government to expand travel restrictions for NSW residents if they are travelling into Victoria for essential reasons.

“The NSW Premier does not realise how dependent NSW country towns are on Victorian services,” Ms Dalton said.

“The border closure has caused chaos. It’s split up families, savaged businesses and left people needing vital medical treatment in limbo.”

The government has issued new restrictions on border travel, which came into effect on Tuesday night.

State Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said the community was “now paying the price of the train wreck the Andrews Labor Government has made of the control of COVID-19”.

“It’s disappointing we have come to this, but it would appear the NSW government is no more confident the Andrews Labor Government knows what it is doing than I am,” he said.

“The impact here for every demographic is significant, from wrecking junior sport to wiping out a social round of golf.

“It is going to pull families apart — they’ll be so close but they won’t be able to visit.

“Echuca and Moama have done everything right from the get-go. And being chopped in half is the thanks we all get.”

State Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell said it "beggared belief" the NSW Government might prevent residents from travelling for work.

“These updated restrictions will cause havoc for border residents, many of them already under enormous stress,” she said.

“There are basically no active cases in these areas and residents, who have been diligent in adhering to social distancing, are now being punished by a metro-centric policy.”

Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaclyn Symes said the Victorian Government would continue to work with NSW to find the best possible solution.

“These changes will obviously have significant impacts on border communities,” she said.

“My priority is making sure these measures are workable for residents and industry and that border communities aren’t cut off from vital services.

“We’re working with the NSW Government to clarify how their new orders will operate and to manage specific impacts on border communities, as well as people who rely on crossing the border for work.

“We are also working closely with our NSW counterparts to ensure freight movements across the border can continue and our agricultural products can be delivered to market shelves across Victoria.”

Ms Dalton proposed a solution of her own.

“Given the low number of cases in regional towns, there’s no need to disrupt so many lives. I think the border zone should be expanded from Griffith in NSW to Bendigo in Victoria. Travel should be allowed for towns within that zone for essential reasons.”