Social distancing in action at Main Beach in Byron Bay.
Social distancing in action at Main Beach in Byron Bay.

Cross-Border Commissioner says closing NSW won’t help

CLOSING the NSW border would do little to stop the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), according to Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish.

There has been extensive talk of whether the State Government should close the border, in reciprocation of Queensland having taken that action.

Mr McTavish said this isn’t’ necessary.

“The reality is closing the border will have no impact on the spread of the disease,” Mr McTavish said.

“For people who live in border communities, the movement restrictions implemented by Queensland have had little impact on their day-to-day lives.”

Under Queensland’s border closure, NSW residents can still cross state lines to travel to work, for medical appointments and certain other acceptable reasons.

Mr McTavish said the permit system for those legitimate travellers seems to have been working well.

Mr McTavish said Queensland had issued some 90,000 border passes.

Those not eligible for those passes are typically required to stay home anyway under the Public Health Act.

He said the “greatest concern” was tourists “coming into the Northern Rivers from Queensland and elsewhere in NSW”.

“That’s a concern that is valid, but the restrictions that are in place now … prohibit people coming on holidays,” he said.

“People are not allowed to be away from home. The rules are very clear.

“We must stay home.

“The reasonable excuses are very plain and very well known.”

Almost every day, there’s a new post on social media reporting Queensland-registered cars in North Coast towns.

Mr McTavish acknowledged there was “some resentment about people who’ve got Queensland number plates” but stressed many Queenslanders come to the Northern Rivers each day for work or to deliver goods.

“If they’ve got valid reasons, that’s fine,” he said.

But hitting the surf in Byron or at Cabarita, or those wanting a quick getaway on the North Coast, would put them at risk of serious penalties.

“It’s not permitted, they’ve got to stop it,” he said.

“The fines are enormous.

“People should be very conscious of that, plus their selfishness puts other people at risk.

“We all know someone who’s vulnerable to this disease.

“Nobody’s immune to this.”

From his own background in the Army, Mr McTavish said he was well aware of the “resource-intensive” nature of roadblocks.

He said a closure of NSW’s borders would be an “absolute drain on police resourcing” for northern NSW.

“The message is clear and consistent, that if you don’t need to leave your home, you must not,” he said.

Mr McTavish said his office has “some particular concerns” about remote indigenous communities during this pandemic.

“Their population is particularly at risk, they’ve got a higher proportion of people in their communities who are at risk,” he said.

Byron mayor Simon Richardson and Nationals MLC Ben Franklin, who lives on the North Coast, have both said they’d like to see a border closure, at least over Easter.

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