GO HOME: The message is clear from Lower Clarence locals - if you don't live there, you shouldn't be there.
GO HOME: The message is clear from Lower Clarence locals - if you don't live there, you shouldn't be there.

Council and residents tell visitors to go home

PRE-EMPTING a rush of people looking to wait out the pandemic on an idyllic beach, the message out of the Clarence is clear – stay away.

With the number of coronavirus cases in the Clarence still low, residents and Council are growing increasingly aware of the potential for outside travellers facilitating its spread.

And they are taking action.

Last week Clarence Valley Council closed one caravan park and slapped restrictions on four others in an attempt to stop “unnecessary travel” in the area.

Now council general manager Ashley Lindsay has told people to stay away.

“We really wish this was the time for holiday-makers in our communities, but unfortunately it is not,” Mr Lindsay said.

“We really want you to stay home this year.”

Council is also asking local real estate agents and Airbnb operators managing holiday rentals to “do the right thing” by discouraging unnecessary domestic travel into the Clarence.

It is an issue keenly felt in the coastal towns of the Lower Clarence as residents report a steady number of tourists still heading to beaches and towns on the weekends.

Angourie resident Eden Hage was so concerned he was planning on putting up signs warning people of the dangers of travelling during the current crisis. But someone beat him to it, erecting a sign at Angourie Point – telling people to stay away.

“People aren’t happy,” he said. Just about everyone I spoke to was flabbergasted at the amount of tourists still coming.

“It is pretty concerning, especially for the elderly around here and the people that have health issues already.

“It is just ignorant and arrogant that people are not taking this seriously.”

Mr Hage was pleased council had closed or restricted the caravan parks, but he wanted other accommodation businesses to follow their lead to stop the flow of tourists ignoring government advice.

At the time of print there were more than 150 accommodation listings across the Clarence on Airbnb alone and Mr Hage said it had to stop, either voluntarily or via stricter government measures.

“It seems ridiculous some people’s incomes are stopping but there are still advertisements for holiday letting,” Mr Hage said.

“It is just a total disregard and is putting a lot of vulnerable people at risk.

“The message from the Prime Minister is not getting through.

“We need leadership on this because there is a risk of people losing their lives.”

The issue has been brought to light across the county in recent weeks as a number of coastal and rural areas receive a number of non-residents opting to wait out the pandemic in more remote locations.

Airbnb has offered full refunds to those who booked accommodation before March 14 with a check-in date between March 14 to April 14.

Hosts can also cancel without charge or impact to their superhost status.

Last week the ABC revealed the small Western Australian south coast town of Walpole had become a hotspot for people defying state and federal government warnings on non-essential travel.

The situation escalated when a local supermarket subsequently closed its doors to non-residents and erected signs asking them to “respect our elderly and most vulnerable”.

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