NSW loosens border restrictions with Victoria

NSW loosens border restrictions with Victoria

As of Friday communities along the Victorian-NSW border will be able to move more freely, with the buffer zone extended to 50km on either side.

The easing of restrictions will extend the geographical scope of which residents are allowed to move interstate, but existing restrictions outside that zone will continue unchanged for the time being.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) told a press conference this morning the decision to close the border was a "last resort option", and she appreciated the measures led to disruption and angst for many people.

"We've had many people on both sides of the border within the border communities and outside the border communities who've been deeply impacted by the pandemic," she said.

"As Victorian numbers continue to decline, that gives us greater confidence to ease restrictions and to listen to the concerns raised by border communities."

The Premier took note of concerns raised when the initial 50km zone was reduced.

"I regret deeply the fact that the community wasn't prepared for what we had to do at that time.

"I want people to appreciate that every decision we take is in the interests of our citizens. The alternative to what we did could have resulted in high rates of infection in rural and regional New South Wales, not just in in the border communities but throughout the state.

"We have had a few close calls in respect to the virus seeding into regional communities and border communities, but our health officials have done an outstanding job in contact tracing."

Today's announcement follows yesterday's call from the state's Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall to remove restrictions on agricultural workers crossing the border.

Ahead of a National Cabinet meeting on Friday where an Agricultural Workers Code will be presented and considered, Barilaro said it was imperative restrictions were lifted to ensure farmers had an adequate workforce for the fast-approaching harvest.

"The situation is now at the 11th hour for many producers across the state. We cannot stand by and watch farmers, crops and businesses face ruin due to the border closure with Victoria," Barilaro said.

"Agriculture is an essential industry. Our farmers feed and clothe the nation and we must do everything to ensure they can continue to operate as smoothly as possible.

"NSW is an agriculture production powerhouse and this needs to continue, to help the economy recover after COVID-19, and bring many communities and farmers back from the brink after years of drought."

Marshall, who described the border restrictions as "senseless", said the proposed Agricultural Workers Code included "sensible" safety requirements imposed in exchange for the removal of all other restrictions on the movement of ag workers.

"Our farmers are suffering because the current cumbersome permit system restricts the free movement of agricultural workers across the NSW/Victoria border, beyond 100 kilometres," Marshall said.

"While we have been able to introduce a new permit which has allowed more primary producers to access exemptions, the time has definitely come to remove these restrictions altogether.

"As part of that proposal, new requirements would be introduced to ensure the safety of primary producers and rural communities, including having a mandatory COVID Safe Plan in place, the use of PPE by workers as well as robust records keeping to allow contact tracing."

Updated at 11:28am AEST on 1 September 2020.

 

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