Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Push to solve border woes


Efforts are continuing to push for a shift in policy for the Victoria-NSW borderregi­on once state government­s have dealt with current COVID-19 outbreaks. Resolution­s at a recent Murray River Council meeting are set to see efforts made to reduce issues associated with snap border closures and restrictio­ns.

While the current restrictio­ns across both NSW and Victoria may halt any immediate changes to visitor numbers and access to services across borders, Murray River mayor Chris Bilkey said the council was still throwing its full efforts into working with government­s to come up with sustainabl­e, longer-term solutions for border communitie­s in the new COVID-era.

“We want to encourage them (the government) to work with local community leaders to come up with a safe strategy that encompasse­s more practical economic options when faced with restrictio­ns as a result of any future outbreaks,” Cr Bilkey said.

Murray River Council has invited other councils along the border to join them in the advocacy initiative and has been working closely with the Murray Regional Tourism board to highlight the full economic hit the region has taken — an estimated $1 billion gone from the local economy, along with 10,000 jobs — over the past 18 months.

“Whilst we resolved to allocate money towards this public push, we are hopeful that any funds will predominat­ely be used towards a recovery campaign for our area when we reopen.

“We won’t be throwing money at a quick fix because in reality, there isn’t one,’’ Cr Bilkey said.

Edward River Council mayor Norm Brennan attended a meeting with Cr Bilkey and other border councils this week to discuss advocacy strategies for making life fairer for ‘border bubble’ communitie­s.

‘‘What I’d like to see is some common sense of what that looks like rather than playing politics with the border.

‘‘We’re struggling again and it’s the feeling of ‘here we go again’,’’ Cr Brennan said.

Cr Bilkey said this should involve assessing data and risks from previous lockdowns relating to how many people were coming and going across the border from hot spots.

“This is where we need to start the conversati­ons; let’s look at the data, let’s create risk profiles and let’s come up with policy that more accurately takes these things into account,” Cr Bilkey said.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklia­n should have implemente­d lockdowns in metropolit­an Sydney earlier.

‘‘People here, in an area that hasn’t had a single positive case in well over a year, already feel aggrieved by masks and restrictio­ns,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘They need to cut us border communitie­s some slack.’’

She said ‘‘border residents have had a gutful’’ of COVID-19 restrictio­ns and disruption­s which had made life unnecessar­ily more difficult.

On Tuesday, Victoria lifted its state-wide lockdown, but Premier Daniel Andrews shrunk his state’s rendition of the border bubble, locking out four previously­included local government areas: Wagga Wagga, Hay Shire, Lockhart Shire and Murrumbidg­ee councils.

‘‘There’s a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so therefore I have no choice but to make these changes,’’ Mr Andrews said.

 ??  ?? Councillor workshops are an integral part of the decision making process.
Councillor workshops are an integral part of the decision making process.

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