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October 22, 2021

Ring of steel called for as Byron and Tweed locked down – again

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The Tweed and Byron shires have gone into lockdown again. Photo supplied.

Councillors and members of parliament from across the region are calling for greater restrictions on who can come to the Northern Rivers, and other vulnerable regional areas, from COVID hotspots in NSW. The call is not new but has gained momentum since the Byron and Tweed Shires have been thrown back into lockdown again following a woman who worked for a production company filming I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Breached her travel exemption permit visiting businesses in the region and while infectious with COVID-19.

Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry. Photo supplied

‘The actions of one person have thrown around 130,000 people into lockdown across Tweed and Byron. Businesses that just stocked up to finally make some money during the school holidays have been left stranded,’ Chris Cherry, Mayor of Tweed Shire Council told The Echo.

‘It is incredibly frustrating to see this happen. The systems were in place that should have ensured the crew member did not come into contact with the community. I think if a company gets a permit for their workers to come to our region it is very much their responsibility to ensure their workers adhere to those restrictions.

‘People do not realise the extra implications this has on the border zone. This now means our teachers and construction workers are again locked out of their jobs in Queensland. Hopefully this will only be for seven days, longer would obviously be even more devastating.’

Tweed Councillor James Owen.

Tweed Councillor James Owen has slammed a television production company and a crew member on the ITV show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here’ for their actions which have put the Tweed Shire back into lockdown and caused the tightening of NSW / QLD border restrictions.

‘I welcome the news that the individual has been charged for failing to comply with the health directive, but it is too little too late. The selfish actions of this individual, and lack of action and oversight by their employer, have plunged Tweed Shire into lockdown. People are furious, and rightfully so. I am furious,’ he said.

Ring of steel?

‘The Cross Border Taskforce is calling for a much tighter control on the permit system for people from COVID effected areas coming to the Northern Rivers,’ said Mayor Cherry.

This call for stronger action on who is allowed to come to the areas has been supported by other local councillors from Byron and Ballina shires as well as local MPs for Ballina, Tamara Smith (Greens) and Lismore Janelle Saffin (Labor).

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin. Photo Tree Faerie.

Ms Saffin wrote to NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro on 20 September regarding the need for a regional road map with protections for our LGAs, including Tweed and Byron.

‘Mr Barilaro responded the very next day with a hook-up for regional and rural MPs and is listening to concerns,’ she told The Echo.

Ms Smith said that she had raise the issue of tighter restrictions directly with the Health Minister.

‘We need tighter restrictions on permits to regional areas for the next 4–6 weeks while we get our vaccination rates up,’ she said.

‘We also need heftier fines for non-compliance. Those workers who get a permit are expected to stay at home except for work. If people breach that I believe they should be fined heavily and that their employer should also be held responsible.’

Not worth the cost

Independent Byron Shire Councillor Cate Coorey has won approval for a new reporting regime she says will offer clarification on dwellings approved in the shire. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Byron Shire Councillor Cate Corey has emphasised that the cost to the local community of people bringing COVID here is greater than the benefits.

‘Until we have reached a point of collective immunity where the disease has limited opportunity to spread they shouldn’t be coming here and doing business; the risk is too great,’ she told The Echo.

‘Yes businesses bring money and jobs to the region but if people get sick (and potentially die) and we keep having lockdowns then any economic benefit is immaterial as it cannot outweigh that kind of damage. Thirty or forty people getting work on a film shoot doesn’t trump hundreds of people not working because businesses are closed, not to mention the anguish people are experiencing from losing their income and being locked down.’

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson said ‘I think it’s disgraceful that someone who clearly isn’t an “essential worker” has been allowed to travel to our region at this point in time from Sydney, that is currently in lockdown and experiencing over 1,000 cases per day. The massive economic and personal cost that these lockdowns have on people is beyond words. To have that all put at risk at this stage given how contagious the Delta strain is, and the fact that vaccination rates in the Northern Rivers are below the state average is outrageous.’

Ballina Councillor Keith Williams is currently in isolation and his business is closed because he’s a secondary close contact as a secondary contact from a Ballina Airport worker.

‘Although I am temporarily inconvenienced, I remain appreciative of the staff at the airport for maintaining such a safe site,’ he told The Echo.

‘I am in no doubt that the reason Ballina was not placed into lockdown is the steps they have in place at the airport, and the faith NSW Health have in those procedures.

Ballina Councillor Keith Williams. Photo supplied

‘What I can’t understand is, how was this person essential to the production? Did anybody bother asking this question before a permit to travel was granted?’ said Councillor  Williams.

‘The broader question of whether this type of TV production should be allowed is more difficult. We do need to maintain some level of economic activity. If there is isolation and testing it may be able to be done safely. It clearly wasn’t in this instance.

‘I would rather see the focus on employing more locals on these productions. Why can’t a local person do that job? Why do you need to import them from Sydney?

‘We definitely need much tighter restrictions on who can travel here. We need our own ”ring of steel” for the Northern Rivers to enable the bubble with south east Qld to work. That’s our most vital economic connection at the moment,’ he said.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon told The Echo that the State government needed to tighten up the testing for people coming to areas where there was little or no COVID-19.

‘They [TV workers] are not essential services, and glaringly, they don’t have to be to get permits for their workers. They only need to show that the work cannot otherwise be done from home,’ he said.

‘There should be tighter restrictions as we have been calling for, for weeks now. There should be requirements for a negative test prior to arrival. This lady was only picked up because the film industry has such strict testing regimes. The lady was not sick. The State Government demands no such testing on the other people coming from areas in lockdown to our region for the variety of reasons that you can be permitted to travel here.’

Ballina Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Community angry at being placed at risk

‘It is certainly disappointing to see gaps in the rules that allow the safety and security of our community to be threatened unreasonably,’ said Deputy Mayor Ballina Shire Council Sharon Cadwallader.

‘When we see so many of our community events cancelled causing the loss of fund raising opportunities that support charities and families, it hardly supports our hardworking volunteers and certainly, in my view, doesn’t align with the value placed on making a TV series.

‘Understandably many of us are angry that no consideration has been given to the risks in allowing people from known hotspots, with no worthwhile reason, to enter our community,’ she said.

‘With so many businesses unable to trade, students unable to attend schools and loved ones unable to be visited by their families in aged care facilities it begs the question, why would this be allowed?

‘Urgent tighter restrictions need to be applied to keep our Northern Rivers Communities safe, particularly over this critical time, before acceptable vaccination rates have been reached.’


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42 COMMENTS

  1. Instead we should probably put a ring of steel around all politicians,including the councilors to save us from their mindless statements

    • Are you describing your comment Herbert one of the local COVID deniers and believer in conspiracy theories. Go put on your alfoil hat Herbert with a dose of ivermectin for your worms.

      • Wow Rod.

        Herb criticises politicians who have botched just about everything and you offer nothing but ridicule, talk about a Nobel prize winning drug that may help the situation and tin-foil hats? !#[email protected]

        Might be time to take yours off and let some education… and respect in.

        • But Steve did the Nobel prize citation include reference to a Covid 19 treatment.

          There area range of treatments, some equally available and inexpensive, used to treat Covid 19. Why has faith in ivermectin (not totally rejected by the scientific community, just not with confirmed efficacy) become a political litmus test for some – apart from a cult like adherence?

          I don’t like unextrapolated ridicule either – but wasn’t equally the basis of Herbert’s original post?

        • But Steve did the Nobel prize citation include reference to a Covid 19 treatment.

          There are a range of treatments, some equally available and inexpensive, used to treat Covid 19. Why has faith in ivermectin (not totally rejected by the scientific community, just not with confirmed efficacy) become a political litmus test for some – apart from a cult like adherence?

          I don’t like unextrapolated ridicule either – but wasn’t this equally the basis of Herbert’s original post?

    • What a world… Maybe just up the fines, let the selfish rule benders enjoy a repayment plan of the economic impact to so many people

      • Now there’s an idea. Local business should be able to extract compensation from those who have been proven (absolutely) to have breached govt health advice or forego any government health treatment (Bulk billed) ?

  2. The ABC news story stated
    “The ABC understands the venue (Kingscliff Hotel) was the location for an unofficial crew get-together after final filming on the ITV Studios Australia production.“
    It seems that this person traveled to have a weekend away visiting cafes, shops and bars and then attend the end of shoot party at Kingscliff pub for five hours. HTF is this considered essential work? HTF can the producers extol how they have protocols in place when all of those employees would have known that she wasn’t following protocol? Will the company be charged?
    We will be getting locked down long after other areas are allowed to remain open because of our low vaccination rates. Hunker down everyone.

      • I support this 100 per cent, as well as, all companies, not only a pathetic production company, that expose this Virus directly to communities & businesses who are suffering no end financially and emotionally.

    • Significant business fines might help switch the burden from a system that relies on people doing the right thing to making sure they do the right thing.

      4-5 hrs at the pub while infected and traveling from a hotspot doesn’t sound like it’s “essential”

  3. What is interesting – is that when the Zoran case happened, residents of the area were literarily calling for him to be “stoned to death” on social media. Primarily it seemed because he did “not believe” in Covid. And was claimed to be “unvaccinated”. The vitriol hurled against this man was nothing short of real threats to his life in the most appalling manner. Now however, we have a person who was fully “vaccinated” and even said to be wearing “PPE” who has done exactly what Zoran did. Break the rules and put the area into lockdown. But we have seen nothing like the level of anger, vitriol and death threats against her that we saw against Zoran. Is it because those hurling the abuse only do so to people they deem different to them..? It would seem so. The Fascism directed against those who chose not to be coerced into taking an experimental medical procedure appears to be reaching dangerous levels.

    • Nah john, that’s crap. I think the outrage is equally directed at anyone who breaks the rules, closes us and our businesses down and compromises our health. I think you’re reading your own interpretation into all this.

  4. If the locals could be enticed to get vaccinated, the region and its population would not be vulnerable and would not need a “ring of steel” around it.

  5. There’s danger all around, John, & none of the stuff is needed. We do need for all of us
    to ‘wise up’ & in one hell of a hurry. Wage peace – not war.

  6. If ,as is the case here, the culprit is part of an organization, then the organization is as much to blame and should be fined as well for not following their protocol guidelines and abusing the exemption given.The permission given to businesses such as these which should not really be deemed essential should be stopped or severely curtailed and policed since their negligence has put the whole community at risk as was the case here.As always it is the selfishness of one which condemns the lot.It would not have happened if a ring of steel surrounded Sydney.

  7. And our local State Member for Tweed, Mr Provest is doing exactly what, to assist on this front?
    (crickets)
    Presumably he’ll get back to us, once Macquarie Street have issued their instructions.

    • In light of the announcement a few hours ago that Mr Provest has indeed today represented his constituents and joined several other regional MPs in speaking out against unrestricted access to Northern NSW by Sydneysiders once the statewide “magical” 70% vaccination rate is achieved if low vaccination rates continue in this neck of the woods, I unreservedly withdraw my above comment.

      Well done, and please persevere, sir. But remember, the Coalition, of which you are a member, is in a position to implement such an arrangement at the stroke of a pen (keyboard / whatever), and ideally, whilst the number of cases remain rampant in Greater Sydney, urgent implementation of the restricted access proposal should be enacted now, BEFORE the Covid horse bolts into our yard?

  8. ITV is in the Northern Rivers because the legislation allows it. Gladys allows it, Brad Hazzard allows it the Minister of the Arts blessed it and Byron Shire Council Mayor reportedly “fell in love with it” until the recent COVID case when it was no longer expedient to do so. The infected person is not liable for “the sins of the father”. Federal waits with bated breath as 200 people from Sydney including hot spots squeeze into a little block of land in a tiny village.

  9. Think a little bit ahead people. NSW will reach 80% vax rate way ahead of QLD. When that happens we open up, few restrictions and free travel within the state and overseas.
    This means COVID will arrive up here in short order – hopefully with minimal bad cases due to high vax rates. When COVID does arrive in northern NSW, QLD will still be living in their zero COVID fantasy world and have a lagging vax rate. Therefore Queen Anna will tighten the border further until she decides her policies are unsustainable and/or QLD gets its vax rate really high. This may mean a hard closure for six months.
    COVID is here forever IMHO and therefore NSW policy of living with the virus is the correct one, the snag for us is it will cause maybe six months pain until QLD sees the light and reopens to us.

    • Ted, very superior tone here re Qld. I don’t think they are blind to the possibilities of keeping delta out forever but they have been doing a pretty good job so far with minimal disruption. NSW is not planning open slather at 70% or even 80% – there’s only so much before they will throw at their health care systems! As Anastasia points out, Qld if it keeps it’s current record will still be enjoying a freer life than NSW or Victoria will when they “open up” at the magic trigger points.

      Ask yourself honestly, if you were a Queenslander would you be welcoming us at the border or would you want to hang on to what you’ve got as long as possible?

      Queensland’s vaccination rates are picking up now that they have finally been given some Pfizer by the feds. They are behind but there is that double jeopardy of supply plus lockdown with burgeoning numbers being factors that drive people to the vaccination hubs.

      I wouldn’t be throwing too much snide superiority at qld, but I agree with you, we are likely to be locked out of just about every state for some time to come. That’s largely due to the abomination of a strategy adopted by the NSW government.

  10. The behavior of one possibly ignorant, maybe selfish person has impacted over 130,000 people. Make an example yes but we have to realize that people sometimes only think of themselves… The rules need to cater for the ones that don’t have that inbuilt socially responsible moral compass

  11. Now your moment in the sun has finally arrived after preaching to Qld’rs about our ‘unreasonable’ border closure one can see it was not only necessary but important to keep you lot out to keep Qld safe. Up here we not only knew it would happen but was expecting it, Sydney idiots traveling freely around NSW were an outbreak waiting to happen.

  12. Youd have to be crazy to believe locking people up will stop a bacteria from travelling the world. We still have everything else but covid will magically disappear?
    How many frontline workers, police, tradies or shop assistants have died so far? Give us all the info not just the case numbers.

  13. The northern rivers need vax up . NSW is opening and people from Sydney will be coming up left right and centre. It’s only a matter of weeks now before they hit the target.

    • Agreed. It doesn’t make any difference by putting up some ring of steel. Once the vaxed & unvaxed cohabitate, with the vaxed able to carry the disease asymptomatically then the unvaxed will have put themselves under vastly increased risk of catching Covid.

    • agreed, given the double-vaxxed rate in the local lga is roughly half that of some of the sydney lga’s, coupled with the local anti-vaxxer behaviour and hesitancy, there could be a potential fire-storm of cases in the area, when sydney eventually opens up… lets hope this doesn’t happen.

  14. I hope all these clowns in NSW government are enjoying their last circus…. because they certainly won’t be re elected…and the whole division needs a dam good clean out of incompetency….

  15. Absolutely….has this employee been sacked by Production Company?
    They should be fined also and barred from continuing any further filming in Northern NSW….it’s of no benefit to any of our communities businesses because hers and the companies negligence has shoved us all back into lockdown….

  16. Construction work has been going on for six weeks. Filming is permitted for 30 days and all temporary construction must be removed by then. Michael Lyon entered into a deal with the film company to extend the 30 day limitation. My understanding is that he can’t legally enter this sort of contract with the film company Neither can he shut them down. Extension of time prolongs risk. I am still waiting for a visit from the company and council to tell me what is happening next door. Both are legally required to inform neighbouring property owners and the community at large and to address their concerns. Still waiting and the clock is ticking down.

    concerns they may have,be told what is happening next door and so are the rest of the community it’s.

    legislation.

  17. Why can’t adults be responsible and do what they should do. It’s not I’m a celebrity get me out of here’s fault, it’s the women in question. She and she alone has put so many people under strain emotionally and financially. This women like the man who earlier came up here from Sydney to Byron and surrounds is to blame not a company she works for

    • True GP but many don’t comply and that needs to be built into any strategy. There seem to be too many loopholes for getting out of Sydney to regions who, though they have their skeptics, have also had their vaccines diverted to Sydney? Not good enough!

  18. Its a virus. Its coming. Get vaccinated. The entire world has gone through it. You’re a fool if you think it can be held at bay. Cannot wait for this area and QLD and WA to be ravaged by it. Only their denial and complaceny to blame. The virus don’t give a shit.

    • Cannot wait Brain?

      What a lovely chap you are.

      I wish you all the best and I hope you are not “ravaged”.

      99% survival rate for the vast majority – so you should be fine.

  19. I think the main point has been missed: blame the libs for a 6 week lockdown in Byron and Tweed NOT each other!! There have been zero cases! This virus is unnoticed in almost half those who get it & rarely affects healthy fit ppl (with few underlying health conditions I.e obesity) who exercise and enjoy sunshine and fresh air!! The whole Northern NSW is blessed by nature…so why continued lock downs?Be happy & enjoy😉

    • If the virus is unnoticed in almost half the people infected, and a sizeable proportion non compliant with testing requests, can we really be confident there have been zero cases?

      Like you Paganic88, I’m really hopeful that there are some environmental factors that mitigate against the virus spread in this area. We don’t have many heated and enclosed buildings and yes, a fairly outdoors lifestyle. But maybe we just haven’t had the theory tested with enough virus circulating yet – a situation likely to be reversed when Sydney comes knocking.

      I think it’s fairly dangerous though, without the necessary expertise, to be assuring people that they’ll be just hunky dory. There are certainly instances of otherwise fit, healthy young people becoming extremely ill, even dying and certainly risking long Covid (up to 30%) from infection. Younger people are making up ever higher proportions of the hospitalised due to either the impacts of delta or vaccination. People blithely mention underlying health issues but many people of all ages have the conditions included eg asthma.

      I agree we are in this predicament because of the ineptitude of both our state and federal governments. However encourage people decide what health measures they will take on the basis of the data from reliable sources rather than encourage myth making based on the popular local narrative.

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