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December 3, 2022

Concerns raised over the impact of opening up to tourists

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The North Coast has seen a significant rise in vaccination of people aged 15 and over with more than 90 per cent of people in the region predicted to be fully vaccinated by mid-November. However, spokesperson for the Cross Border Task Force (CBTF) and Tweed Shire Mayor, Chris Cherry, has told The Echo that there are significant concerns over the impacts as people start arriving from Sydney.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Officer Julie Sturgess said the region had made great progress in vaccinations in recent weeks.

‘As travel restrictions ease across NSW from 1 November the region is now better prepared and protected to deal with the expected influx of visitors. Our first dose coverage is tracking above the national average and is on par with the NSW rate,’ Ms Sturgess said.

‘There is every reason to believe that those who have had their first jab will also have their second. ‘This is a remarkable achievement, but we can’t afford to be complacent. There is still more work to be done.’

COVID vaccines are available for children aged 12-14 years.

It is not just the influx of visitors that bring the risk of increased COVID infection to the area but also the need for workers to be double vaccinated by November 1 that has caused concerns in local businesses and the community.

‘Second dose coverage is still a bit behind the NSW rate, however this is to be expected as the North Coast is playing catch up due to earlier supply constraints,’ Ms Sturgess said.

‘I recently met with all the clubs in the Tweed Shire including those with sporting and recreational facilities,’ said Mayor Cherry.

‘At the moment workers can attend if they have a single vaccination but from November 1 they will have to be double vaccinated to work. There is a fear that the requirement will impact on staffing levels right when we are opening up there will be staff shortages. That is owing to the lag in vaccine supply which means people are still waiting for their second vaccination shot,’ she said.

‘It is just another complication right when people are going to be coming here, right when businesses need our support. This is also coupled with when the financial support will be withdrawn.’

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Are hospitals prepared?

Ms Sturgess has highlighted that as the area opens up to tourism again ‘the virus will continue to circulate’.

‘Ahead of this influx of visitors, we are also working with GPs and clinics to help them boost their operational planning and manage the risks. I would also urge people to remain vigilant about their personal hygiene and to follow standard safe practices to protect themselves and others as our borders open to interstate and international travellers,’ she said.

Mayor Cherry acknowledged that there is significant concern throughout the community about the impacts of the virus gaining a greater hold in the region and the impact on health services and hospitals.

‘We have had a lot of assurances from Northern Rivers Area Health (NRAH) about their preparation for the increase of the virus here. They have said they have put a lot of resources into the area and that there will need to be increased testing and hospital beds.

‘The Cross Border Task Force has met with NRAH who have assured us that they do have the contingency plans in place for that increase we do expect. They have said that the Lismore Hospital is set up to cope with that and we not need to rely on Queensland hospitals. This is a particular issue for Tweed because we previously relied on the Queensland hospitals.’

The News South Wales – Queensland border marker at Tweed Heads/Coolangatta.

Queensland border opening

Queensland border restrictions will be eased from December 17 for people from COVID hotspots with entrance, without quarantine, allowed for fully vaccinated people who have received a negative COVID test in the previous 72 hours.

Mayor Cherry has said in recent meetings between the CBTF and NRAH ‘they said they have modelled the numbers and are prepared for the increase in testing that will be needed to cross the Qld border’.

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  1. If people are double jabbed, what’s the issue?
    Business has been doing a good job of managing Covid requirements.
    The real threat is “over tourism” ie rubbish, antisocial behaviour, homelessness and traffic!!!

    • I hope you’re right that business is doing a good job Mark G. I offered to show my digital certificate to a lunch venue this week and was told I didn’t have to. At another one last week that happily looked at mine but no-one else who was in my group.

      I sympathise with businesses not wanting to deal with the histrionics of the “activists” but noone else is likely to ensure our visitors from Sydney are double vaxxed – or the locals either.

      What’s the betting that Sydneysiders won’t be expecting to be asked in Byron Shire?

      • Cafes I have been going to haven’t had staff in masks or asking customers inside to wear one or checking vaccine certificates, dont really blame them for not wanting to police it but if numbers do rise it will be a problem

  2. There is a urgent need and has been prior to Covid for Council and NPWS to address the toilet ammenities situation in the Shire. The current situation of a mass migration of people here makes this even more a priority. I am surprised that nothing has been progressed in this area.
    There is a overall consensus that our ammenities are in need of attention. Business is struggling to get cleaners as there is no where for them to live coupled with high rent places are not getting cleaned frequently.
    The self cleaning toilets on the beach front and in town in Byron are not ventilated and frequently in a poor to awful state. NPWS toilet the pass etc are disgusting due to the numbers of people using them and their condition. They are not only run down but really awful places.
    There is such an opportunity to design ammenities that are open design like Centennial Park in Sydney or Gold Coast. Design can discourage people lurking or people using it to wash dishes etc, drug, etc and allow for fresh air ventilation. These ammenities also need to be cleaned regularly however design can make this easier ie concrete floors hosed out like the examples I cite.
    It is awful to think that disabled, elderly people and parents have to use these facilities not to mention women who really rely on these ammenities for obvious reasons.
    The Shire is still not capturing revenue in areas where they should and this is still not addressed even though we have had a year or more to do so.
    Paid parking is fine and removing the permit for locals is good even though it is very reasonable but it’s not addressing the enforcement issue.
    What is required is new technology ie that uses a machine to administer tickets and calculates the time if stay on exit do you get 100 percent return snd you give community and visitors a fairer go as the parking is turnover.. Currently the same van will stay all day only moving with an enforcement officer arrives. Council has a handful of enforcement officers that don’t work past 3pm mostly ( may change a bit in peak times) but still inefficient as two need to be in vehicle. In summer these vehicles spend a majority of their time in traffic which cuts down on their ability to fine so there goes more revenue and those ammenities, roads and all the things community needs.
    My point is we need to start to get organised it management plans for tourism as these will be relevant whether it’s Covid, climate fires, over visitation etc.
    In Sydney when areas get to peak capacity they close them off so they can manage them ie some of the National Parks and also Jervis Beach dud years ago as roads were so congested.
    Do we have plans for Byron? If we are going to get all these visitors we need to ensure we are capturing the revenue and also looking after our community.


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