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.
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.’
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.
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?
‘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.’