TWEED BUMP

Of­fi­cials make late de­ci­sion to re­move Coolangatt­a-Tweed check­point

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - GREG STOLZ, AN­DREW POTTS, JODIE CALLCOTT AND LUKE MOR­TIMER

NEW bor­der check­points aimed at block­ing po­ten­tial coro­n­avirus cases cross­ing over into Queens­land were put in force yes­ter­day, caus­ing mayhem for mo­torists. It comes as po­lice re­vis­ited plans to close back­streets lead­ing into Tweed Heads.

PO­TEN­TIAL coro­n­avir­us­car­ry­ing mo­torists can still cruise into Queens­land and the Gold Coast de­spite a bor­der check­point aimed at block­ing cases from NSW cross­ing over.

All roads from Tweed Heads into Coolangatt­a were to have been closed or manned by po­lice check­points from mid­night on Wed­nes­day un­der a bor­der lock­down an­nounced by Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk on Twitter ear­lier this week.

But traf­fic was flow­ing freely through the “twin towns” yes­ter­day af­ter au­thor­i­ties back­flipped on plans to com­pletely seal off the bor­der with ex­cep­tions for work­ers, med­i­cal trips, school runs, freight, court and com­pas­sion­ate grounds.

Po­lice check­points were in place on the M1 at Tu­gun and the Gold Coast Hwy at Bilinga near Gold Coast Air­port but the road through Tweed Heads into Coolangatt­a, and sur­round­ing back­streets, were open as nor­mal.

Gold Coast po­lice chief su­per­in­ten­dent Mark Wheeler said po­lice had “re­vis­ited” plans to block Grif­fith St at Coolangatt­a and close the back­streets lead­ing into Tweed Heads.

“Coolangatt­a and the Tweed is an in­ter­est­ing dy­namic,” Supt Wheeler said. “It’s es­sen­tially a vil­lage – peo­ple there, their daily lives, are in­ter­wo­ven across that bor­der.

“We re­vis­ited our plans.” Traf­fic was backed up heav­ily on the NSW side of the bor­der as po­lice stopped cars. The gi­ant line be­gan in dark­ness in the early hours of the morn­ing and only grew as the sun came up.

Amid the traf­fic con­ges­tion was an el­derly cou­ple whose male driver had taped a note to the win­dow of his car to com­mu­ni­cate with po­lice.

“Good morn­ing (we are) at­tend­ing John Flynn Hospi­tal for cancer treat­ment. She has com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem … thank you,” the note said.

Chief Supt. Wheeler warned mo­torists traf­fic could be de­layed for hours and the op­er­a­tion would con­tinue for “months, not weeks”.

He said cars cross­ing the bor­der would be shep­herded into an area and be ques­tioned by po­lice.

“There will be sig­nif­i­cant de­lays when we see traf­fic build­ing up,” he said.

“The bor­der re­stric­tions we have in place are go­ing to cause pain to the com­mu­nity in terms of hav­ing to wait … and be­ing de­layed.

“Plan ahead and be pre­pared for a lot of in­con­ve­nience.”

He said if po­lice es­tab­lished mo­torists were en­ter­ing Queens­land for es­sen­tial pur­poses they would be moved on quickly.

Po­lice at the RBT-style road­blocks were hand­ing out Queens­land en­try passes to mo­torists.

Just over 12 hours af­ter the new controls came into ef­fect, a man was taken into cus­tody at the bor­der af­ter he al­legedly ap­proached the bor­der in a stolen ute with fake pa­per num­ber plates.

Po­lice had a war­rant for the man’s ar­rest and while search­ing the util­ity al­legedly found amounts of money, drugs and a gel blaster gun.

Se­nior Gold Coast-based LNP front­bencher Ros Bates slammed the par­tial clo­sure as a “farce”, say­ing po­lice had re­ported mo­torists “pour­ing” over the bor­der in the hin­ter­land. “It was com­pletely and ab­so­lutely botched,” she said.

Ms Bates said there had been “panic, chaos and con­fu­sion”, with text mes­sages to Queens­lan­ders liv­ing near the bor­der but not NSW res­i­dents.

“The bor­ders need to be closed to con­tain the virus but what needed to have hap­pened was a clear plan from Palaszczuk and the La­bor

Govern­ment,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said Tweed Heads and Coolangatt­a were “in­ter­twined … and we don’t want to have a huge im­pact on those lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties”.

A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk stressed the bor­der clo­sure was not de­signed to im­pact bor­der com­mu­ni­ties, but halt the spread of coro­n­avirus.

“We are try­ing to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

Pic­ture: JERAD WIL­LIAMS

Queens­land po­lice were check­ing mo­torists as they crossed from NSW to Queens­land at the Gold Coast Hwy at Bilinga.

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