Calls for NSW border to close amid fears Byron Bay will become ‘overloaded or unhygienic’
Border restrictions that came into effect from midnight have caused traffic gridlock along the southern Gold Coast, but police say motorists are cooperating for the most part.
- People living south of the border can get a crossing pass
- Police warn delays and checks will continue for “quite some time”
- The Byron Shire Mayor wants southern travel restricted too
Queensland Premer Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the border closure earlier this week, saying it would remain open only to freight and local traffic.
Ms Palaszczuk said the move was designed to keep interstate residents, particularly people in Sydney and Melbourne, from venturing north.
State disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said border crossings were being controlled to deter holiday makers and non-essential travellers from entering the state and potentially spreading COVID-19.
A long line of traffic heading into Queensland on Thursday morning. (ABC News: Dominic Cansdale)
“This is not a short-term thing, people have to be prepared for this to happen for quite some time,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is concentrate on those areas where the greatest flows and the biggest risk is.”
But traffic is crossing the border more freely heading south, prompting Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson to suggest NSW follow suit by closing the border on the southern side.
People who live and work across the border and those who have medical reasons for entering Queensland are being allowed through.
Some motorists are also being allowed into the state on compassionate grounds and trucks carrying freight are being granted entry.
Police say motorists have been understanding about the traffic delay at border checkpoints. (ABC News: Cathy Border)
Online border pass available
Motorists living on the New South Wales side of the border who are eligible for an exemption under the new rules can apply for a border pass.
Once granted, it can be printed by the applicant.
Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said police would continue to modify their methods of controlling traffic, and cars with Queensland registration should be passed through checkpoints.
“People have been very compliant,” he said.
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“We’ll be adjusting this as we go through to make sure it’s as seamless as possible.”
While crossings along major roads like the Gold Coast Highway have seen traffic build up over kilometres, he said police had sufficient resources to implement the border controls.
“Under the health emergency, we have the ability to appoint other classes of public servants and government employees as emergency health workers that can assist us,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“If we’re going to get people crossing the border out in the back of beyond or in small numbers then that’s not a risk to the community.”
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Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said while officers were not wearing medical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) this morning, they had that option available to them and were maintaining adequate social distancing standards.
“We’ve given them advice and are equipping them with PPE for them to use when they should do,” he said.
Non-essential travel discouraged
Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said workers living in the “interwoven” border communities of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta “won’t have an issue” receiving an exemption from the restrictions.
“I’d ask for people to do the right thing — use the M1 or the Gold Coast Highway,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Wheeler said there would be a heightened number of police conducting random inspections along the southern Gold Coast.
“If you’re ducking across the border for a coffee or beer with a mate, that’s not essential,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is stop COVID-19 from coming into Queensland.”
People breaching the border closure rules face a maximum penalty of $13,345.
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Trade dropping off
Tweed Heads resident Darcy Hide works over the border at a bakery on Griffith Street in Coolangatta but said he had no issues crossing into Queensland this morning.
“I just hasn’t affected me, honestly,” he said.
“They didn’t have any barricades between Tweed and Coolangatta.”
But he said there had been a noticeable drop in the number of customers after the border closure was announced.
“It wasn’t too bad at the start of the week, we had a fair amount of people, but in the last couple of days it’s declined,” he said.
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