State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin has released a statement announcing her concerns for Northern NSW communities who she describes as “hurting” as a result of Queensland access restrictions amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Saffin is urging political leaders in NSW to redouble efforts to help lessen the impact of border restrictions.
She said Northern NSW communities have become victims of a “cross border lockout”, adding “we do not see ourselves as a Covid-19 hotspot and we do not see ourselves as a threat to the safety of Queensland.”
In her statement, Ms Saffin identified the Northern Rivers as being outside two bubbles, those being the Queensland bubble where the local region “desperately needs access for our industries and for the health and well-being of our people,” and the Sydney bubble, “where the needs of our capital city are overwhelmingly occupying most of the attention.”
“We are aware of the size of our region’s needs and the problems which the border closure has caused to our families, communities, industries and jobs,” she said.
Ms Saffin said it would be helpful if the border bubble could be expanded to include the entire state electorates of Lismore, Ballina and Clarence.
“A larger border bubble is one option we could ask Queensland to consider and on behalf of our community, I have asked the NSW Government to advocate for this.
“I will continue to seek to bend the current border closure restrictions to soften the impact on lives and livelihoods across the Lismore electorate and Northern NSW.”
When approached for comment, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the tough border closure is particularly difficult to accept, especially considering the Northern Rivers “is not a hotspot and does not pose any real threat to the health of Queenslanders”.
“The QLD Premier should be more compassionate and reminded that this is a global pandemic and total elimination is not feasible or possible,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“Continuing with a hard lockdown will result in severe mental health and economic repercussions for the very people she claims to protect.
“Nonetheless I will continue to do my utmost to assist people to cross the QLD border in particular for health and compassionate grounds.”
Mr Gulaptis also said the NSW and Commonwealth Governments are doing everything possible to make crossing the border into QLD as seamless as possible but the ultimate decision about who can cross the border lies with the QLD Premier. “The QLD Premier did not consult with Premier Berejiklian about the border closure,” he said.
“She made a unilateral decision.
“There are no new Covid-19 cases north of Newcastle and we can’t in anyway be considered a hotspot, but the residents of Northern NSW have to suffer the consequences of a tough border closure.
“We are negotiating on a daily basis with the NSW Government and the QLD border hotline to assist constituents of Clarence seeking to cross the border to receive medical treatment, for compassionate grounds and for work and this is an arduous task with every case considered on merit with new border rules every day.
“We need to enable patients and healthcare workers to move more freely between NSW and Queensland, especially in emergency situations, to allow children to go to school and see their families, and ensure vital industries like construction can continue to thrive by allowing tradespeople through the border.”
The NSW Government is currently developing a plan to address the needs of border communities while still ensuring NSW communities remain safe from the spread of Covid-19.