The standoff keeping around 100 Canberrans at the NSW-Victoria border has been resolved after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed a new health order allowing people with permits to travel through to the ACT from tomorrow.
Those with permits will only be permitted to travel in NSW between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm, have a designated stop point along the journey and a requirement that those who undertake the journey do not re-enter NSW for 14 days.
Vehicles will not be able to stop for petrol and have been instructed to leave Wodonga for Canberra with a full tank of fuel, but they are permitted to stop at a nondescript spot about 4 km north of Gundagai’s Dog on the Tuckerbox.
Anne Cahill Lambert, who has been stuck on the border since Friday (7 August), has welcomed the announcement but criticised the handling of the situation by NSW authorities.
“[We] will be happier to get the formal advice with new permits so we can head ’em on and move ’em out,” she told Region Media.
“The Premier made no apologies for keeping NSW people safe, but she was doing this at the expense of other Australians by wanting to send them to the epicentre of the pandemic to fly to Sydney, the second epicentre of the pandemic.
“This is tribal rather than Australian and it would have been nice for some of us to hear directly from her or let us speak directly to her so she could hear first hand of our plight.
“I thank the people of Wodonga and other towns in NE Victoria for accommodating we refugees!”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr welcomed the announcement and reiterated that the ordeal exemplifies the precarious nature of travelling to Victoria at the moment.
“I regret that it has taken this long to resolve this matter [but] we have throughout the process put forward sensible and practical solutions,” he said.
“One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that things will change and they might change on very short notice. It goes to reinforce the point that unnecessary travel to Victoria at this time should not be undertaken. Just do not do it or you might find yourself stranded.
“The second you cross a border and go into another jurisdiction you are subject to the rules of that jurisdiction and so you could find yourself in the same position. Not just this week, but next week, next month and next year possibly as well.”
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who has constituents in the area as the Member for Monaro, told Region Media that the NSW Government had been working hard to find a solution.
“The Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the chief medical officer have been working through the final protocols with police and how we will move those residents from the border into the ACT,” he said.
“We are definitely not leaving people abandoned on that border. We have been committed to finding a solution and getting it resolved quickly.
“These are the problems we face with setting a hard border. You can plan for everything and all the anomalies and you think you have got it managed, but these things can sneak up on you, and before you know it, you have got to make a decision.”
Victorian MPs who are coming into the ACT ahead of the 24 August parliamentary sitting week had permits reissued within a day of the changes to allow them to get to Canberra and quarantine for a fortnight ahead of parliament.
Hey @ACTHealth! I made it to Canberra and am quarantining from today to make sure I can sit in @AboutTheHouse on Monday fortnight. You’re busy, but if someone comes to confirm I’m here don’t be afraid to bring a double espresso with you … pic.twitter.com/MlK8dyGbc6
— Tim Wilson MP (@TimWilsonMP) August 8, 2020