News

BORDER BLOW

By Olivia Duffey

Further strain will be put on the district economy with the decision yesterday to form a hard border between NSW and Victoria from tonight.

At the stroke of midnight, noone will be allowed to cross from one state to the other without a pre-approved permit.

It comes amidst what was last week described as one of the strongest winter tourism periods for Deniliquin in recent history, with caravan parks still quite busy despite Melbourne hotspot lockdowns and visitors spending their money with local businesses.

The announcement is likely to see any Victorian spending the final week of school holidays in the district pack up and go home.

Deniliquin Business Chamber President Paula Rutter said as a consequence, local businesses who were counting on that school holiday economy will be impacted.

But she said the impact to community health was more important at this point in time.

‘‘It is absolutely going to hurt Deniliquin as far as school holidays go, the hospitality industry and accommodation providers,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s really sad because we have a lot of Victorians in town, which we usually embrace. 

‘‘But at the end of the day health should be our number one priority. We are going back to being careful and taking care of everyone.

‘‘For the safety of everyone on both sides of the border, the powers have made the decision that is for the best of us all.’’

Mrs Rutter said because of the restriction in visitation, the shop local message is as important as ever.

‘‘Maybe we can revisit what we have available and think about how and where we shop, rather than doing it online or out of town,’’ she said.

‘‘We need to support one another and be here for each other.

‘‘See what our shops have to offer and support them by shopping local.

‘‘If we all do the right thing, we will all stay open.’’

Victorian Member for Murray Plains and deputy leader of the Victorian opposition Peter Walsh, however, labelled the closure ‘‘dramatic and unprecedented move’’.

He said it would create a significant negative impact on cross border communities in his electorate, including Echuca-Moama.

‘‘The initial news from the New South Wales Government is that all casual and social traffic between Echuca and Moama will end at midnight (tonight),’’ he said.

‘‘Our communities and local economies have already been smashed by Victoria’s COVID-19 shutdowns. 

‘‘We are all prepared to do our bit to flatten the curve and save lives, but for us to be dragged into Melbourne’s mess is a bitter blow to people in Echuca and Moama.’’

Yesterday’s hard border announcement was made in response to another significant outbreak of COVID-19 community transmission cases in Victoria.

There were 127 new Coronavirus case recorded in Victoria in the 24 hours to Monday morning, compared to just 14 in NSW.

The closure was agreed upon by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, in consultation with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The 55 border crossings linking Victoria to NSW will be monitored initially by the NSW Police Force, and then with the assistance of other emergency services and agencies.

NSW residents returning from a Melbourne hotspot are already required to go into 14 days of self-isolation. 

This requirement will be extended to anyone returning from Victoria, and will be backed by heavy penalties and fines.

Special permits are available for border crossings.

Exact details on exemptions had not been announced at the time of going to print, but it is expected to include anyone crossing the border for essential services, work, school and medical care.

Special conditions will be in place for freight operations and other critical services.

Local freight companies were yesterday reluctant to comment on the border closures until more information is available to them.

Ms Berejiklian indicated there will be significant disruptions to border travel until at least Wednesday evening as the details are worked out, including the permit application process through Service NSW.

She stressed the border closure is a temporary measure, but could not suggest when it would be lifted.

‘‘As I have said before, it is in our national interest for borders to be open,’’ the premier said.