THE gap created between Echuca and Moama is finally closing.
On Wednesday, September 16, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced residents living in border communities would be allowed to move freely between the two states.
And by midnight Thursday the changes were in effect, providing a big boost to the twin towns, according to local leaders.
“Allowing people to move across the border a little more freely may at least offer some reprieve to our businesses who rely on the support of those across the river,” Murray River Mayor Chris Bilkey said.
“The impacts on visitor economy for hospitality and tourism businesses is still of concern though, so we would hope for some more good news re further easing of the border closures sometime soon.”
Campaspe Shire Mayor Adrian Weston said he was also pleased.
“Council was very pleased to learn of the NSW Government’s recent review of restrictions, and remains appreciative of the efforts of MPs, local businesses, border commissioners, councils and the Victorian Government for their support in having the restrictions modified,” he said.
“Council thanks the NSW Government for its quick response and congratulates the community for their continued efforts to remain COVID-safe, which has led directly to the most recent easing of the border restrictions.
“The announcement can only assist many residents and businesses who have faced significant financial and emotional hardship due to the combination of restrictions that were in place on both sides of the river.
“Council encourages residents from both sides of the river to acquire the necessary permits and support local businesses during this ongoing period of difficulty.”
State Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said the return of ‘daily life’ conditions in Echuca-Moama was a big step forward for northern Victoria.
He said it was something he had been working on with his parliamentary colleagues in NSW for some time.
“There have been a few hiccups, but as well as pressuring for change we have been able to demonstrate northern Victoria has been leading the fight against COVID-19 in Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“Bringing our communities back together means sport can once again get going, people can use many of the great facilities both sides of the river — it’s almost like pre-COVID days.
“But this is just the first step; and should have happened weeks ago.
“There are still real challenges needing urgent solutions. The NSW Government must let our farming industries have access to the whole state, and I will keep pushing for that; and the Victorian Government must cut the chains and let us get the regional economy back to work and back on track, and I’ll keep pushing for that, too.”
Murray River Council is also reminding residents to allow extra travel time when entering NSW.
“With traffic expected to increase over the Echuca-Moama bridge due to easing of border region permit conditions, we are reminding people to avoid peak times in mornings (6.30am-9.30am) and afternoons (3pm-6pm),” a statement said.
“Some motorists crossing during peak times have experienced delays between 20 and 50 minutes, so if motorists can avoid the bridge at this time this may help ease the congestion.”
The following will not change:
If you are a border region resident who is a NSW resident:
● you must not travel to any part of Victoria that is outside the border region or is a COVID-19 area of concern
● if you do travel outside the border region in Victoria your permit will no longer authorise you to enter NSW and you will need to apply for a NSW resident’s permit to re-enter NSW (requiring flight into Sydney Airport and quarantine).
If you are a border region resident who is a Victorian resident:
● you must not travel to any part of NSW that is outside the border region
● you must not enter NSW if you have been in a restricted area in Victoria or in a COVID-19 area of concern in the previous 14 days.