Calls to push the border between NSW and Queensland are mounting as local businesses grapple with divided restrictions and mass protests continue.
There are mounting calls to move the NSW-Queensland border checkpoint to the Tweed River, as local businesses grapple with split restrictions and mass protests continue.
Queensland wants the border moved south – to the River Tweed – to stop the impact on the communities of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta.
However, NSW is fighting a border bubble – which would encompass both Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, so that both communities can continue to access essential services and goods, rather than having to travel further south to find a major city centre.
NSW Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro and Queensland Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles will meet today for a crisis meeting and to discuss possible options.
“But time is ticking. Shifting the border checkpoint south to the River Tweed would make life easier for hundreds of people cut off from their families and jobs.
“I encourage NSW to do what makes sense. Allow us to move the border post south and reunite this community.”
On Saturday, Mr Barilaro doubled down on his calls for a Tweed bubble, saying NSW had not yet received a guarantee from Queensland that access to essential services would continue.
“Many essential NSW services are located north of the Tweed River, including Tweed Hospital and Police Station,” he said.
“The next nearest major hospital is in Lismore, which would add significant additional travel times and reduce the availability of medical services for NSW residents.
“An entire NSW government response to the pandemic would be compromised, and if emergency access to Tweed Hospital were required, it would have significant ramifications with the coordination of medical and other response activities.”
Queensland Health has already rejected the idea of a border bubble, saying it poses “too much risk due to the movement of people in the border area”.
The border split continues to cause chaos in the region with massive protests from Coolangatta and Tweed Heads over the past two weekends.
Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry told reporters last week that urgent changes needed to be made to stop the impact on local people.
“We have all heard from concerned residents in our respective communities about job losses, family separation, health impacts and business owners going into the wall because of this hard border closure,” she said.
NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish previously said there would be “significant problems” with moving the border as there is no clear geographical feature to enforce the split.
“Wherever you push the line, there will always be someone on the wrong side,” he said.
The Prime Ministers of Each State repeatedly bumped into the border.
Last week, Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said talks are underway to temporarily move the border bubble between Queensland and NSW south in a bid to free tens of thousands of residents stranded by strict travel restrictions.
But NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian immediately shifted responsibility back to Queensland, stressing that it was northern state policy that trapped border residents.
The Premier of Queensland has repeatedly blamed her NSW counterpart for rejecting attempts to move the border checkpoint to the River Tweed amid heavy restrictions on interstate traffic.
Currently, only essential workers who have received at least one dose of vaccination are allowed to travel between the two states, sparking deep-seated anger among those stranded at the border.
On Friday, the Queensland government announced it had been approached by its counterpart in the south with a “change of heart”.
Ms Palaszczuk told reporters that the change in attitude was “very interesting to see”, but stated “we are happy to talk to them about it”.
“We’ve been very forward-thinking in bringing our option forward, so let’s see what happens,” she said.
But at the same time at a competing press conference in Sydney, Ms Berejiklian insisted that Queensland’s policies had failed border residents and that it was up to Ms Palaszczuk to come up with a solution.
The NSW Prime Minister insisted the threat of the virus was minimal in the north of the state despite the rising number of cases closer to Sydney, and told Ms Palaszczuk to tear the families apart at the border.
“It is their decision, but as has been emphasized, the Northern Rivers and Northern Border communities in New South Wales have not had any cases of Covid-19 for a long time. “These are decisions for the Queensland government.”
– With NCANewswire