Clarence coronavirus border exclusion zone ‘ridiculous’
WITH his motel running at below 50 per cent capacity, Jacaranda Motor Lodge owner Tony Stackhouse has hit out at the recent changes to Queensland's border zone.
Yesterday, the premier announced all of Queensland would be open to shires surrounding the Clarence Valley, including Richmond Valley, Ballina, Byron and even Glen Innes to the south.
The move excluded the Clarence Valley, which has not had a recorded case of coronavirus since late March.
Mr Stackhouse said he couldn't understand the decision given the relatively high number of cases and possible exposure of other areas such as Byron Bay and Ballina.
"Byron Bay has been a hotbed, and it's been known that Victorians were flying into Ballina," he said.
"It seems so ridiculous (that we're excluded) when we've had none of this."
Mr Stackhouse said a large number of business representatives that have stayed at his motel came from Brisbane, and had rung to say they wouldn't be able to travel.
"Also, we get a lot of people who travel either from Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast, and stop here halfway, and we're not getting any of that at the moment," he said.
Mr Stackhouse's daughter lives north of the border, and is pregnant with her first child, and he said the rules about visiting her were making it even more confusing.
"She was able to travel down to Kingscliff where we stayed and saw them for a few days, but it's not the same," he said.
"Kingscliff was absolutely going off. The caravan parks were full, the number plates were all Victorian and Queensland coming into the area.
"There's obvious interactions happening well on this side of the border, but we can't go across from here."
Clarence Valley Council yesterday joined the chorus of disapproval of the decision, with councillors voting unanimously on a motion to request the Queensland Premier and Chief Health Officer to relax the border restrictions and allow residents from the Clarence Valley local government area to enter Queensland without having to quarantine for 14 days.
Clarence Valley Mayor Cr Jim Simmons expressed his disappointment at the decision and pointed out that all other local government areas in the Northern NSW Local Health Network (Byron Shire, Ballina Shire, Lismore City, Kyogle Shire, Richmond Valley as well as Tweed Shire) were now included.
"I'm really perplexed as to the rationale behind why the Clarence Valley has been left out of the travel bubble," he said.
"The announcement is obviously upsetting for many residents; the Clarence Valley has strong human and economic ties with South East Queensland.
"With the M1 upgrade nearing completion, the journey to the border is now under two hours and people are keen to travel, to reunite with loved ones and get back to doing business."
Cr Simmons said that the community relied on a range of specialist health services as well as companies from Queensland being involved in multi-million projects, which are causing delays and financial losses.
"Our community relies on the range of specialist health services in the Gold Coast and Brisbane," he said.
"Queensland companies are engaged in multimillion-dollar projects in the Clarence Valley and the border closure is causing delays, financial loses and inconvenience for people on both sides of the border.
"I understand and respect why the Queensland Government has been cautious relaxing border restrictions, but I would like to personally ask the Premier to extend the travel bubble to include the Clarence Valley Council area."
Member for Page Kevin Hogan lauded the expansion as a win for common sense, but said he would continue to fight for both the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour local government areas to be included in the border bubble.
"It is great to see Lismore, Richmond Valley, Kyogle and Ballina Local Government Area's included in the expansion," he said.
"However, it is also not acceptable that Clarence Valley Council and Coffs Harbour Council aren't included in this expansion."
Mr Hogan said he had criticised the border closure since the beginning, as it had not been recommended by the Chief Health Officer.
"I will continue to fight until the borders are fully open and we can travel freely through the State," he said.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said the exclusion of the Clarence Valley local government area didn't make any sense.
"It is quite bizarre and certainly not based on medical evidence that Glenn Innes Shire is given the nod but the Clarence Valley is excluded," Mr Gulaptis said.
"I have written to the Queensland Premier asking her to reconsider and to accept the whole of the Northern NSW Local Health District into the so-called bubble since we are demonstrably COVID safe.
Mr Gulaptis said that no new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in residents of the Northern NSW Local Health District since July 25.
"It is very much in Queensland's interests to open up to the Clarence Valley both for the small businesses that trade there and locals who like spending their weekend tourist dollar on the Gold Coast," Mr Gulaptis concluded.