The bipartisan Cross Border Taskforce is calling for tougher penalties for individuals who breach Public Health Orders, as well as action against businesses who do not abide by their COVID Safe plans.
NSW members of the group also joined their North Coast colleagues in calling on the NSW Government to adopt a staged approach to opening up NSW once the State reaches the targets of 70% and 80% double vaccination. The reasoning is the Far North Coast needs to be given the time and the vaccines to be prepared for the likely influx of visitors when the State opens up.
In attendance at Wednesday’s taskforce virtual meeting were Members from both the NSW and Queensland Parliaments, including Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals), Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor), Ballina MP Tamara Smith, MLC Catherine Cusack (Liberal), Currumbin MP Laura Gerber (QLD Liberal National Party) and Mayor of Tweed Shire, Chris Cherry (independent).
Taskforce spokesperson Chris Cherry said the area was three to four weeks behind the States’ vaccination rates.
“This is not because of vaccine hesitancy – recent surveys by local health groups have shown the willingness of our population to get vaccinated is comparable to Australia as a whole,” Cr Cherry said.
“We’re behind because our vaccines were diverted to Sydney some months ago to assist in their time of need.
“To put it frankly, we took one for the team, now it’s our turn,” she said.
The call comes as the Tweed and Byron local government areas were thrown into lockdown after a COVID-positive crew member of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here visited a number of venues in Byron Bay and Kingscliff.
“It beggars belief that a person from a COVID hotspot was granted an exemption as an essential worker to travel to Ballina and then proceed to be out and about in the community, sending both Tweed and Byron LGAs into lockdown and causing a tightening of the Queensland land border restrictions.
“The anger in our respective communities on both sides of the border is palpable. A number of businesses have told us that this is the final straw – they won’t open their doors again once this lockdown lifts and it’s heartbreaking,” Cr Cherry said.
“We have written to the NSW Premier and Deputy Premier asking that any existing exemptions for production company ITV in our area be revoked until such time as our region’s vaccination rates hit the State milestones.
“This company needs to be held accountable if it is found there were breaches to its COVID Safe plan.
“With the Queensland border tightened again we are now back to square one and measures must be taken to ensure this unacceptable situation does not happen again.
“This totally avoidable incident by one individual has once again thrown our communities on both sides of the border into chaos,” she said.