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Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Calls for a Northern Rivers border zone to ease Queensland restrictions

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Queensland has shut its border to all non-essential traffic. Photo montage Jeff Dawson.

With Sydney COVID-19 cases increasing, and the Sydney lockdown extending until the end of September, local Labor MP Justine Elliot and some local mayors and councillors have called on fellow Liberal and Nationals state MPs to support a Northern Rivers border checkpoint ‘to keep our community safe and to protect local jobs and businesses’.

Federal Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot. Photo supplied.

Ms Elliot says 17,000 locals have signed the petition to enact the checkpoint.

Yet bipartisan support appears unlikely ‘owing to a range of legal and regulatory issues’, according to Nationals MLC Ben Franklin, who backed his leader John Barilaro’s views in his COVID-19 briefing last week that ‘moving the border becomes another cliff edge for another community’.

Nationals MLC Ben Franklin

This is despite Labor claiming the QLD Government ‘offered this proposal to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who to date has unfortunately refused it’.

Mrs Elliot says, ‘The fact is that governments can do anything if they have the will to do it. As a former police officer, I can assure you that a NSW Northern checkpoint is legal, practical and workable’.

She added ‘The Qld Premier has said she’s written to the NSW Premier offering to start negotiations about the issue and the NSW Premier wrote backing refusing to take up the offer’.

Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry. Photo supplied

Northern Rivers border zone

Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry has also come out in support of a Northern Rivers border zone, managed by NSW Police, to stop infections spreading from other regions and facilitate effective management of the NSW–Queensland border.

‘What we saw the other day in Sydeny where the NSW Police set up an exclusion zone and stopped people crossing into the center of Sydney for the protests shows there is a mechanism to set up a Northern Rivers border zone,’ Mayor Cherry told The Echo.

‘Maybe that is what we need to do as a government for this region. I want to raise that as an option; that we could set up a bubble in the Northern Rivers that can be expanded to include the local government areas (LGAs) like Ballina, Byron, Kyogle and Lismore as they demonstrate they are clear of COVID, as the Tweed Shire currently is. This will ensure that there is NSW police-controlled Northern Rivers region that is COVID clear. That would allow Queensland to have their border controls in place but reinstate the previous border zone area for work and education and health reasons etc.’

Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader.

This position appears to be supported by Ballina’s Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader and Councillor Jeff Johnson. Cr Cadwallader said that a border checkpoint to the south of Ballina ‘makes sense because of the less disruption to the economy with fewer roads away from busy town centres’.

Cr Jeff Johnson with his daughter.

‘It’s certainly a better idea than having everyone locked down at home and businesses forced to close,’ Councillor Johnson told The Echo.

‘Our businesses are feeling it really badly,’ said Ballina’s Mayor David Wright.

‘At the moment you could fire a shotgun up River Street and not hit anyone.’

Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright. Photo supplied.

Mayor Wright told The Echo that moving the border south would just move the problem and the number of smaller roads in the Ballina region means that it would be difficult to manage. However, he said that ‘The border bubble works. I really think that the border bubble allows people with legitimate reason to go over the border.’ He also highlighted the importance of facilitating truck movements and supply chains for the building industry.

Tweed clear of COVID

Tweed Mayor Cherry has emphasised that Tweed Shire has no COVID cases or sewer fragments of the COVID virus and that ‘moving the COVID Biosecurity checkpoint would allow our region to get back to work’.

‘With more than 5,000 people who normally come to work in the Tweed and more than 10,000 people who normally travel from the Tweed into South East Queensland every day for work, the impact on our businesses is immense,’ she told The Echo.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon told The Echo that he is also ‘supportive of furthering the conversation around the checkpoint being moved south. At the moment I just see political opportunism and not a genuine effort by some to engage and try to make it happen. If you move the border south you also end up creating the same problems but for a different set of people, so you’d need to look at the best place to have checkpoints in order to minimise the impacts. There is no doubt that it is a massive “town” of Tweed/Coolangatta being split with a large number of people affected so it is worthy of further consideration.’

Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland.

Safety a priority

Kyogle Shire Mayor Danielle Mulholland and Ballina Councillor Keith Williams have both emphasised that, whatever happens, keeping residents safe is paramount.

‘Whilst I can appreciate that lockdowns have a significant impact on local businesses, we are talking about a global pandemic,’ Mayor Mulholland pointed out.

Ballina Councillor Keith Williams told The Echo that ‘As a local restaurant owner, the impact on my business is far greater now than the lockdown last year. Government support is of a lesser amount and harder to access, there is far less certainty about when we might be able to reopen and there is simply no fat left in the business to ride it out. Greater support for business and wages is a must, or we will see large scale closures over coming weeks and months.

Ballina Councillor Keith Williams. Photo David Lowe.

‘I think we must accept that Queensland will only extend the border bubble to LGAs that have no local cases. The first priority must be the elimination of local transmission. And for that we need an effective lockdown.

‘We don’t need visiting property speculators and we don’t need #freedumb marches to remind us how over-privileged and self-entitled some people in our community have become. We also don’t need governments that are the captive of right-wing shock jocks deciding policy on the run, poorly communicating how infection is spreading and using spin and smokescreens to try to hide their failures.

Children need protecting

‘Talk of opening up when vaccination rates hit 70 per cent terrifies me. I have an 11-year-old son, he won’t be vaccinated at that point and I totally reject the idea that our children are to be put at risk of serious illness to satisfy the economy.

‘Instead we must invest in our economy like we did last year. We avoided the worst of the world economic downturn because the Federal Government finally gave up on its debt obsession and spent up big. It’s past time we revisited JobKeeper, the coronavirus supplement for people on low incomes and every other support we can offer people to stay at home, stay safe and stop the spread of this dangerous disease.’

Queensland border closure. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Start local and expand to the region

Tweed Mayor Cherry has said a planned expansion of a Northern Rivers zone would be a good start to easing border restrictions.

‘I have been advocating for the checkpoint at The Byron-Tweed Border simply because the numbers crossing that southern border for work, at around 1,800 per day, are so much less, so it would have a lower impact, although of course there would be many families impacted. I guess it is about trying to find the least impacting solution,’ she told The Echo.

‘I would support the whole of the Northern Rivers being in the bubble, but have been told that is not possible while there are still sewage fragments being found. So hopefully as soon as that is clear it could be broadened out to the whole of the Northern Rivers and we can all resume our lives.’


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Can someone please explain why these incompetent politicians continue to push for a border zone than rather lobby the federal government to force the states to remove all state border restrictions and manage this Australian health pandemic by individual LGA’s.
    Sadly the Queensland government is playing politics and this is now no longer about managing a health crisis and sadly our federal government politicians are allowing this to occur.
    Having a state border inhibiting movement between two zones with no cases demonstrates that it achieves nothing and is protecting no one. All this has achieved is to cause undue stress on businesses, families and the separation of border communities for no intelligent and legitimate reason. It’s time to remove all state borders in Australia and demonstrate this can be managed by a traffic light system between LGA’s. Let’s show the world we are intelligent again. Clearly something out politicians and community leaders are failing to do with advocating a border zone. Wake Up.

  2. Interesting that an independent mayor in Tweed has offered a border solution. A labour premier in Queensland has supported the proposal. The Nationals deputy leader in NSW HAS REJECTED IT – no discussion. Nothing but crickets from the local state member in Tweed. Guess he has decided he does not want to get elected at the next election.
    Personally I am learning to live without Queensland and will boycott Queensland going forward. I am fortunate not to have to cross the border but I understand thousands need to cross the border to support their families. No COVID in the Tweed never has been it still Tweed residents are treated as if they are not important by both parties. Move to boycott Queensland, change jobs what ever. Remember how we have been treated at the coming state and Federal elections.
    Time to give it back to these puffed up pollies!

  3. Again and again, like some ground hog day, Federal and State LNP Coalition Govt’s failure after failure!
    As we edge closer and closer to a hundred fatalities, hospitals are being overwhelmed from the Morrison/Berejiklian delta outbreak, there is astoundingly no leadership, nothing from the LNP Coalition of the useless! Just some mindless droning dribble distraction being emitted about a long delayed vaccine rollout failure thats now going just great?
    Just as in the Ruby Princess LNP Coalition catastrophe that caused so many deaths and infections. Zero accountability, zero leadership, zero planning.
    This just shows that you cannot use the words common sense and LNP Coalition in the same sentence!
    The Federal/NSW State LNP Coalition are the disaster, everything else is just a by-product of that disaster!
    Remember the QLD Premier has had this offer of moving the covid checkpoint south for well over a year, throughout all the lockdowns. Everyone agrees with it except the do nothing Nationals and the Lieberal party Prime Minister of Sydney and his subservient little puppet Berejiklian!

  4. Well said Mark.
    For many years now we have wondered, when is Australia going to become one country, it would save an awful lot of money, inconvenience to the public and “possibly ” reduce corruption.
    The borders came down in Europe, so what is holding Australia back.
    We wait in anxious anticipation.

  5. I must say this whole affair seems very short sighted.
    Even if we reached 100% vaccination rate, covid would still not be eliminated. Death rates would decrease but not entirely disappear. New strains would appear, never ending booster shots and modified vaccines will be pushed on us. Border closures will never end, suicide rates will exceed covid victims. How, under such traumatic circumstances, will Australia ever open up, not just to each state but to international traffic?
    My polite suggestion is to: promote boosting your immune system. Outlaw junk food commercials like you have done with cigarettes. Tax junk food. Make people more aware of good health. Exercise more. Drink more water instead of soda pop. Then you will have an immune system that can cope with anything you can throw at it. Only the elderly and those with compromised immune systems will need to be segregated.

  6. Just more bluster and chest puffing, just enough to look as if politicians are doing their bit. Unfortunately nothing will progress any further. Stop playing politics and get it done.

  7. I’m a bit confused. Are we saying that the checkpoint should include Ballina? It makes sense to me but the question arises do we then come under qld parameters or NSW. Personally I don’t want to be governed by pallachook and whilst berachicklian is not far behind she has more idea than the disguised blonde up north.

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