Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke is pleading with the NSW Government to work closer with local leaders in respect to border restrictions before the decisions keep being made and councils have to scramble to make it work for their many residents and workers, on both sides of the border.
Mayor Bourke said major confusion among the wider Federation Council community was evident, following the release of the latest amended public health order signed off by NSW Health minister Brad Hazzard and posted on the government’s website overnight last Thursday, August 6.
“Council understands that some hard calls have to continue to be made in respect to the public health response, but what is really lacking in all of this, is the prior consultation each time, with Local Government through its local leaders,” he said.
“We are the closest leaders to our communities, we understand how they work and we believe we are in an invaluable position to provide real time advice before decisions that are impacting our communities so heavily are made.”
Mayor Bourke said some council staff were turned away from the border last Friday, unable to come to work to perform critical services.
“Some of our staff were not notified of the changes, or that their permits were coming to an end. They received an email at 12 noon, that detailed their permits had ended, it is just not good enough,” he said.
“There are still business owners separated from their families, mums and dads that have spent weeks away from their kids because they’ve had to choose between keeping their business operational in NSW, over going home to Victoria to be with their loved ones. It’s just plain wrong, the engagement and communication needs to get better than this.”
Mayor Bourke said council was very thankful for the tireless efforts of Local Member Justin Clancy, and NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish and their staff.
“Both have been very responsive and worked hard for incremental changes over time, after each decision is made,” he said.
“But the key thing for us though, is for decision makers in Sydney to consult with us prior and we won’t be in these situations as often after each new change.”
Mayor Bourke said the impacts on the border communities will undoubtedly be felt for a long time especially financially and socially including mental health.
“Our hope is that moving forward the State Government will consult with local government, and their local leaders more closely so we are able to express to them just how our border communities work, where they go for education, services, supplies and health and maybe then, the impacts would not continue to be as devastating and unsettling as what they currently are. We’re all in this together - not just through COVID but everyday life and this is what we would like the State Government to see.
“Work with us, let’s really be in this together to protect the many different facets of our communities and support them through the many changes that need to be made in the best interest of public health. The time to engage with us before such drastic decisions are made is long overdue.”
The NSW Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock held a zoom meeting with Murray River council mayors on Monday. Mayor’s departed the meeting hoping the minister had a better understanding of the impacts of the border closure which they expect will be passed onto the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Mayor Bourke highlighted the issue of 24 workers at Rivalea who have been unable to cross the border to work because they lived in a postcode outside the border region.
“We created a bigger awareness to Sydney on what is happening down here, which I don’t think existed at a ministerial level,” he said.