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October 22, 2021

Pandemonium predicted if there is no regional roadmap to recovery

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Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry. Photo supplied

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry has called out new NSW Deputy Premier Peter Toole’s assertion that it has been difficult to get the regions to vaccinate saying that it is the lack of available vaccines that has caused the delays in vaccinations.

This follows the announcement by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet that as NSW has, overall, reached a 70 per cent double vaccination rate the state will start to open up on Monday 11 October.

‘80.1 per cent of the Northern Rivers region has had their first dose of the vaccine,’ Mayor Cherry pointed out.

‘Our community has demonstrated to get the vaccination but only 50 per cent of our community who have actually been able to get the second vaccination. Fifty per cent of people who have been unable to get their second vaccination by 11 October are going to be punished by the state government because of the failure of the state and federal governments to supply the vaccine to the regions. Delay October 11 start date because otherwise, it will be pandemonium.

Lack of vaccines has been the reason for low vaccination rates not vaccine  esitency. Photo Shutterstock

Call for a regional roadmap

‘Regional NSW will be plunged into confusion, causing unnecessary anxiety for communities already under strain, if changes are not urgently made to the NSW Government’s roadmap to recovery,’ said Mayor Cherry on behalf of the bipartisan Cross Border Taskforce.

The taskforce sent a letter to newly-appointed NSW Premier Perrottet and Deputy Premier Toole today calling for a delay to double vaccination requirements until the end of October in regional areas.

‘While the group was thankful to the NSW Government for amending its requirement for double vaccination for staff in the regions – where a lack of supply meant many thousands of people were still waiting to receive their first or second shots – the same was needed for patrons in the wider community,’ she said.

Under the NSW Government’s amendment announced on 3 October, staff working in regional local government areas now only have to provide proof of one vaccine dose and a booking for a second dose to continue to work. However, patrons attending venues and non-essential retail outlets are still required to be double vaccinated by Monday.

‘Just like staff in our region have been unable to access vaccines due to a lack of supply, the same applies to patrons and customers in the wider community,’ said Mayor Cherry.

‘It is for this same reason the taskforce believes we need to delay the restrictions planned to be imposed on October 11. We need a separate roadmap to recovery for the regions, particularly border communities grappling to understand the ever-changing rules of multiple jurisdictions.’

Tamara Smith: Photo by Tree Faerie

Bipartisan taskforce

The letter to the Premier followed a meeting of the taskforce on Tuesday, attended by Members from both the NSW and Queensland Parliaments, including Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens), NSW MLC Catherine Cusack (Liberal), Burleigh MP Michael Hart (QLD Liberal National Party) and Cr Cherry (independent). Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals), Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor) and Currumbin MP Laura Gerber (QLD Liberal National Party) were apologies for the meeting. NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish was also in attendance. A notable omission to these meetings has been National Party MLC Ben Franklin.

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin. Photo Tree Faerie.

Loss of freedom for regions

Mayor Cherry said messaging around the impending changes and their impacts on communities in regions such as the Tweed, Byron, Ballina and Lismore LGAs remained unclear, with these communities not expected to hit the 70 per cent target until some weeks later.

‘Very few people understand that from Monday (11 October), when the first stage of the recovery plan comes into place, communities such as ours who have fortunately experienced few restrictions to date, could very well experience a loss of freedoms,’ Cr Cherry said.

‘For example, Tweed Shire Council’s indoor swimming pools which are currently open, will be forced to close. So our community will effectively be going backwards – how do we explain that to our residents?

Tweed MP Geoff Provest. Photo pronto.com

Sydney-centric plan

‘All of the messaging around the reopening of NSW is completely Sydney-centric and while we understand the reason for this, it doesn’t make sense for regional communities who have not been in lockdown for extended periods of time.

‘To prevent any additional chaos and confusion for our businesses and residents, we are calling on the NSW Government to draw up a separate roadmap for regional NSW, which only kicks in at the 80 per cent double vaccination milestone in late October.

‘Under the current plan, much of the freedoms for double vaccinated people at the 70 per cent mark touted by the roadmap are already enjoyed in regional areas – whether they are vaccinated or not.

‘It is going to be incredibly difficult for our businesses to enforce these rules and will only serve to heighten anxiety at a time when many regions are facing the very real likelihood of their first COVID-19 outbreak.’

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  1. Yeah, sorry Chris, I don’t buy your argument. Access to the vaccine has been available in the Northern Rivers for more than 6 months. The real issue is that people have left it to the last minute to take steps to vaccinate.

    • That’s not actually correct. My kids (14-24) were unable to get any vaccine until last week. Their appointments for first dose were ranging from Sept 25 to Nov 25! Not for want of trying to get appointments, they’re seriously the first appointments we could get.
      Thanks to a pop up vaccination centre they all had the first dose last week.

  2. I don’t know where Chris Cherry gets her information. If you were looking to get vaccinated around the corner from your home I would understand why it was difficult to get vaccinated. People who wanted to get vaccinated have got their 2 doses, despite sometimes having to wait a couple of weeks. Certainly since September it’s been much easier and find ridiculous the excuse that no vaccines are available to justify keeping our local business suffering any longer just to cater for the selfish attitude of those who don’t want t get the Covid jab.

    • It would be nice to see some proof of those claims Carlos – we know plenty of people that have been ringing around for weeks, unable to find even the first jab for months. As far as I know the big load of age-appropriate vaccine has only arrived very recently in the Northern Rivers, firstly because Federal Government stuffed up the order, secondly because a large part of our stock was redistributed to Sydney while they were under the hammer.
      It may have been easy for you to get a vaccine – that does not make it easy for everyone though. Why do you not believe people when they tell you they have been trying for weeks, sometimes months?

  3. Perhaps a big “Up you” should go out to our local State member, Geoff Provest for his incredible work in not looking after his constituents in the Tweed.
    Notwithstanding being a member of the governing coalition, his track record to date has been:

    1. Staying “on message” with Macquarie Street in the early days of the Border Bubble, and resisting any attempt to support any suggestion of finding a solution to the, at times, massive traffic delays by finding a means for the checkpoints to be set up a couple of kilometres to the South, thus saving tens of thousands of cumulative hours of traffic frustration by Tweed Heads residents. All the time actively NOT being prepared to engage in any dialogue, whilst parroting “Too hard!” “Too hard!”

    2. Then, hypocrisy on an industrial scale, signing a letter with other pollies, to his own government, requesting consideration be given to restricting access by heavily-Covid-infected Sydneysiders to the Regions once restrictions start to ease down there. (As if he has got nothing to do with his own government, for crying out loud.)

    3. Now, apparently not being available to attend the most recent “Bipartisan Taskforce” Meeting to discuss the various issues in the “Border Bubble”.

    4. In addition, whilst acknowledging vaccination rates are still well and truly below the so-called 70% mark up this way (with various reasons given, depending on your political leanings – and are academic anyway, given the conveniently-omitted “of the eligible population” qualification (which brings the figure to a little over 50% of the total population, and presumably well under 50% of this Region) there is every indication Mr Provest will be standing silently on the sidelines whilst witnessing this region being thrown under a bus for the sake of the votes of Greater Sydney residents.

    A word to the wise, Geoff: if Covid runs rampant in the Tweed, the residents of Greater Sydney don’t vote in the Tweed electorate and mouthing the Sydney-centric talking points of your political masters will not be of any benefit to you unless you are elected.

  4. Situation much the same in many parts of QLD: low supply. Tin Can Bay, for example, had 120 vaccines in total delivered since Jan 21. News changes all the time. Tho we do not, as you do, have ‘ emissions’ (your typo) from Ben Franklin. We worry and support QLD reaching 80%+ here before relaxing border rules etc. Our hospitals are hardworking but we so desperately want to avoid being overwhelmed. Hope new NSW leaders support the local govt leaders. So many people visit here and covid 19 spread sure to roll. Let’s ensure it limps.

  5. Yes supply of Pfizer was so late in coming here, people were told the earliest available appt for FIRST dose was Dec.

    Then there was a case in goonellebah and suddenly supply was shipped here.
    But this was only a month or so ago. For first dose. So younger people getting Pfizer are unlikely to be double vaxed for some weeks, due to supply probably inadequate for regions, or simply being re-directed to sydney.
    older people getting Astra probably make up the majority of double doses.

  6. I don’t know how Chris Cherry came to the conclusion there has been insufficient vaccines available. This is clearly wrong. There has always been plenty of vaccines available in this area. The reason so many people will not have received their second dose by October 11 is because they were slow on the uptake for their first dose. People were simply reluctant to have the Astrazenica vaccine because it was much maligned by the media, so were waiting for Pfizer vaccine. Vaccination uptake here is a people problem, not a supply problem. Chris Cherry should stop making these ridiculous statements in an attempt at playing petty politics.

  7. Isn’t there a single journo in NSW with the cunning and drive to get some clarity around the ridiculous and ambiguous statement from the deputy premier today regarding regional workers? What he said makes no sense (unless you live in a dictatorship).

    • Julio,
      I can assure you that The Echo has tried from every different angle to get clarity on all of the COVID issues.
      We send a constant stream of email and make many phone calls.
      Just because we ask, doesn’t mean they answer.

  8. Heaps of people up the Tweed area had their vaccinations that they had booked weeks in advance cancelled as supplies were redirected to Sydney for HSC students. They were not happy as many of them were middle-aged and elderly. Most of them have had their first dose but there are still a lot that haven’t had their second so not sure what everyone if going on about here saying it’s not true there is a lack of supply. Not everyone could have AZ and eligibility has only been opening up bit by bit and there have definitely been medical clinics in the Tweed saying they couldn’t keep supply up to the demand.

  9. I would seriously doubt Ballina Shires ability to open up due to council not even supplying basic hygiene in the amenities in the region. I would go so far to say that washing hands apart from being basic hygiene 101, is also far more affective than any mask..

  10. Myself and my next door neighbour are having our 1st vaccines Thursday 14 Oct at two Casino pharmacies which was for both the first available opportunity. SO this means that I will not be able to enter most businesses such as clubs and hairdressers until mid Nov 2021 (at the Federal govs slow roll out I was expecting March 2022 but they moved faster than expected).


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