Mildura Rural City Council is among 14 border municipalities stretching from Corryong to Sunraysia united in an unprecedented show of strength to convince the NSW Government to ease its latest border restrictions.
Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence said since the new public health orders came into effect, all 14 Councils had received messages, emails and calls from concerned residents impacted by the new restrictions.
Cr Clemence said he was concerned about Sunraysia residents’ ability to access employment and go about their daily lives in an area that is currently COVID-free.
“I have already spoken with State Government Ministers on this issue and we are seeking their support to free up the border restrictions for Border Community residents on both sides of the river here,” he said.
“This latest tightening of restrictions will have significant impacts on businesses and families, particularly those on the New South Wales side of the border, given for many of them Mildura may be their social, economic and health hub.
“The majority of our region’s major industries are based in Mildura. Many NSW residents from areas including Gol Gol, Wentworth, Dareton and Buronga rely on them for their livelihoods.
“In many cases these industries span further into our district than these restrictions allow, making them a severe impost.”
Amid fears of a devastating economic impact on border communities that have always lived and worked closely together, the border leaders have combined to tell the NSW Government that the creation of a border zone largely restricted to a two-kilometre strip on either side of the river is unacceptable and unsustainable.
Cr Clemence said the harsh restrictions were already creating stress and anxiety for workers, businesses and families, some of whom are facing enormous financial and emotional hardship because of the narrow permit zone along the border.
“Our request to the NSW Government is simple – please allow border community workers on both sides of the border to do their jobs,” he said.
“We understand both governments are working to restrict the spread of COVID-19, it should be made clear that there are only a handful of active cases of the virus in the border communities yet people living along the Murray River are being heavily penalised through no fault of their own.”
Cr Clemence said all 14 Councils had taken the historic step of uniting in a collective call for the NSW Premier and Health Minister to amend the order to allow more workers and business owners to cross the border, travel directly to their workplaces, and travel directly back to their homes each day.
“The narrow border strip system is causing a growing amount of harm to our communities as each day passes, so we’re urging the government to consult with us so we can save our economies while also ensuring we’re all working together to minimise the risk of the virus spreading,” he said.
The 14 Councils calling for the change are Mildura, Albury, Berrigan, Campaspe, Gannawarra, Federation, Greater Hume, Indigo, Moira, Murray River, Swan Hill, Towong, Wentworth and Wodonga.