Mayors and CEOs spanning both sides right along the Murray River, from Corryong to Wentworth, are joining forces in an unprecedented show of strength to convince the NSW Government to ease its latest tough border restrictions.
Since the new public health orders came into effect last week, all 13 councils say they have received messages, emails and phone calls from residents who can no longer get to work or open their businesses, with many already closing their doors.
Amid fears of a devastating economic impact on border communities that have always lived and worked closely together, the border leaders have combined to tell the NSW Government that the creation of a border zone now restricted effectively to a 2km strip on either side of the river is unacceptable and unsustainable.
Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke says the harsh restrictions are creating stress and anxiety for workers, businesses and families, some of whom are facing enormous financial and emotional hardship because of the narrow permit zone along the border.
“Our request to the NSW Government is simple: please allow border community workers on both sides of the border to do their jobs,” Mayor Bourke told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“While we understand that both governments are working to restrict the spread of COVID-19, it should be made clear that there are only a handful of active cases of the virus in the border communities yet people living along the Murray River are being heavily penalised through no fault of their own.”
Moira Shire Mayor Libro Mustica said all 12 councils had taken the historic step of uniting in a collective call for the NSW premier and health minister to amend the order to allow more workers and business owners to cross the border, travel directly to their workplaces, and travel directly back to their homes each day.
“The narrow border strip system is causing a growing amount of harm to our communities as each day passes, so we’re urging the government to consult with us so we can save our economies while also ensuring we’re all working together to minimize the risk of the virus spreading,” Mayor Mustica said.
Local Government representation on the newly formed National Cabinet is also set to be sought by councils. An update will appear in next week’s Chronicle after Moira and Federation Councils meet this week.
The councils calling for the change include: Albury, Berrigan, Campaspe, Federation, Greater Hume, Indigo, Mildura, Moira, Murray River, Towong, Wentworth and Wodonga.