Pressure is increasing on state governments to ease COVID-19 border restrictions, as NSW moves ahead with a plan to allow more regional residents to cross state lines.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state will extend a 50-kilometre border region either side of the NSW-Victoria border, which would give residents as far south as Beechworth access to new crossing permits.
Previously, the border region has only been 2.5 kilometres either side of the border, which created a situation that left many small business owners in the lurch in recent weeks.
The extended permits will allow regional residents to travel within a 100-kilometre band either side of the border from this coming Friday, with permitted reasons including work, school, compassionate reasons and to obtain necessary goods.
Amid pressure from business groups and the federal government to further ease border rules, Berejiklian sought to reassure residents the rules would not be in place longer than they need to be.
“As soon as the health advice says, ‘Premier it’s no longer a health risk’, my government will jump at that opportunity,” the she said.
Tourism businesses call for change
The change comes just days after a coalition of almost 500 tourism-reliant businesses and their lobbyists penned an open letter to legislators calling for border rules to be urgently wound back, warning their industries were facing serious risks.
“We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work,” the letter reads.
“We implore you now to desist from making announcements that erode this confidence; we implore you to stop spending public money on border closures.”
Border restrictions are again expected to be a prevalent topic in the national cabinet’s weekly meeting this Friday.
Yesterday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk sought to push back on business concerns, saying she wouldn’t budge on the state’s border closure with NSW and would extend the restrictions through September.
“We said we would review at the end of each month and there has been no advice from the chief health officer to change what we are doing,” Palaszczuk said.
Earlier this week the Queensland government made $11.3 million available for a tourism support package targeting Far North Queensland.
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The program will be split across $6.5 million in project construction and a further $4.8 million in direct financial support to attract events to the region and assist reef fleet operators.
Queensland’s tourism minister Kate Jones acknowledged the border closures were hitting businesses hard.
“The pandemic has hit the state’s tourism industry hard but the government is carefully lifting restrictions to allow for intrastate travel for Queenslanders and opening up to other travellers when possible,” she said in a statement.