Political leaders on the North Coast, from across the political spectrum, have decided to work together to urgently call for the establishment of a Tweed Cross Border Community Zone as a solution to combat the growing border crisis.
The call followed a meeting yesterday between Mayor of Tweed Chris Cherry (independent), Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals), Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens), Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor) and Ballina MLC Catherine Cusack (Liberal) in a show of bi-partisan support to work together for the benefit of the region.
The group unanimously agreed to support and empower Tweed MP Geoff Provest to make urgent representations on their behalf to the NSW Premier and Deputy Premier to engage the NSW Cross Border Commissioner, in conjunction with Regional NSW and Tweed Shire Council, to develop a proposal to establish a pilot cross border community zone around the Tweed local government area (LGA).
Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry spoke on behalf of the leaders saying ‘Every day we’re hearing case after case of the dire impacts the border closure is having on our families and businesses across the Northern Rivers.
‘We cannot sit by and watch our communities crumble like this. We have to work together to forge a solution that works for the benefit of all – while ensuring we maintain a COVID-Safe community moving forward,’ Cr Cherry said.
‘The combination of lockdown and hard border closure means our residents and businesses are experiencing extremely harsh restrictions. Some business owners are unable to physically access their own premises, the construction industry is completely shut down and there are no “buddy bubbles” even for immediate family members and partners.’
Expand to other LGAs
The proposed Tweed Cross Border Community Zone is in keeping with a letter sent by Cr Cherry to the premiers of NSW and Queensland last week calling for the establishment of checkpoints on the southern and western extremities of the Tweed.
It is also in line with similar calls by local Federal Labor MP Justine Elliot and some Ballina and Byron councillors who supported a Northern Rivers border zone in The Echo yesterday.
‘The new checkpoints would replace the hard border control on the Queensland border at Coolangatta, Numinbah and Tomewin, allowing Tweed residents to return to work, hospitals and schools, while adhering to existing public health orders,’ said the press release by Cr Cherry.
‘Should the initial pilot prove successful, the zone could be expanded to include the Byron, Ballina and Lismore LGAs and potentially be a model for other border or strategic regions in the state.’
Cr Cherry said ‘We understand this solution is out of the box and will create a new “cliff face” to the south of the Tweed, but we need to try something urgently,’ Cr Cherry said.
‘Statistics show this would be the best solution for the region and could allow the northern NSW economy to return to normality – as much as that is possible – in these current times.’