As of 11.59pm on Tuesday 3 August, the Victorian Government’s further tightening of border controls with New South Wales was enforced; prohibiting NSW residents in border communities from moving between the states without a permit, except for six essential reasons.
These include medical care, compassionate reasons, work, education, playing sport or getting vaccinated.
The decision has left business across the Victoria-NSW border reeling, with yet another strain being placed on their operations and ability to trade viably.
The latest data released by Tourism Research Australia has shown domestic travel to border regions is down almost 50 per cent, with direct expenditure falling by $1bn in the year to March.
With five lockdowns, significant restrictions and repeated border closures, these communities’ tourism and events sectors have been decimated, businesses have closed and jobs have been lost.
The Victorian Chamber has made a submission to the Inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and events sectors, which was tabled in Parliament on 3 August, and we are pleased to see that our proposal was well received and referenced on several occasions throughout the final report.
Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra said, “We know how these border communities co-exist, and the reliance they have on each other. We need to find a solution, and quickly, that can provide both the ability for the towns to operate and to restrain the virus from creeping into Victoria.”
There are possibly many solutions, but the Chamber has been advocating for the border to temporarily extend 10km into Victoria for NSW for the purposes of COVID-19 restrictions, which would mean that border town residents and workers can continue to travel between towns.
“We recognise this is a complicated situation and governments have to make decisions to protect Victoria and public health, especially from the Delta variant, but this is a unique situation that requires a tailored solution – it’s not a one size fits all.
“Businesses on the NSW side are in desperate need of trade from the Victorian side, much the same way that Victorian businesses suffered from a lack of customers from NSW last year.
“These are regional areas that have seen very little or no COVID-19 cases, so it doesn’t make sense to restrict them even further from trading in a viable way. We need to let them get on with it or accept the harsh reality that there will be more business closures and jobs lost.
“The Victorian Chamber is pleased to see our submission to the inquiry referenced throughout the final report - and we look forward to having further discussions with Government and advocating for some of the recommendations to be adopted,” Mr Guerra said.