The Mayor of Byron wants the NSW government to close its border with Queensland to stem the flow of people moving between the states and potentially spreading coronavirus.
Motorists queued in bumper-to-bumper traffic for several kilometres on Thursday morning as they tried to cross the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads to the north.
Each car must pass through a police checkpoint after Queensland’s border restrictions came into effect on Thursday. There are exceptions for freight and essential travel.
However, the border remains open in the other direction.
Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson wants NSW to impose a tit-for-tat border closure with Queensland to further curb the movement of people.
Mr Richardson said allowing people to freely travel into NSW was putting the health of his citizens at risk.
“It’s really important that the community in the Byron Shire has an opportunity to deal with its challenges without the added burden of many hundreds or thousands of Queenslanders coming into our spaces,” he said.
“It’s only going to increase the likelihood of spreading a virus and making our spaces more overloaded or unhygienic.”
There are 443 cases of coronavirus in Queensland and 1219 in NSW.
Thousands of people commute across the border at Tweed Heads for work every day, making it the busiest state crossing in Australia.
Those attempting to travel into NSW must now pass a checkpoint where they are questioned by police.
Tweed Shire mayor Katie Milne said it was hard to know how the closure would play out for the 8000 Tweed residents who normally work over the border in Queensland.
“There’s a lot of people to get over that border and a lot of people to get to work by 9am, and even earlier if they are tradies,” she said.
“The last thing we want is gridlock in Tweed, but I have to say there are still far too many people moving about unnecessarily.”
Cedric Tiopira, who lives at Banora Point, which is seven kilometres south of the border, was caught in Thursday morning’s queue for more than an hour.
“I’m feeling good about it, we just all have to do our bit,” she said.
Further west, patrols are in place in other border shires, including Tenterfield.
Mayor Peter Petty said the closure was hampering recovery from bushfires that ringed the town late last year, and a drought that almost ran the town reservoir dry.
“The whole community was looking forward to some upcoming festivals, stuff to get us going again, then we get this,” he said.
“But anyway, we can’t control this and people just have to be sensible and self-isolate, until we get to where we need to go in terms of lockdown and that graph stops going up.”
To further discourage people from hitting the road during the pandemic, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack wants a shutdown of regional motels and caravan parks.
She said she had approached the state government about the issue but was looking for more support from local councils.
Ms Cusack said the experience in Spain showed what happened when people fled urban areas with high rates of coronavirus.
“It has caused geographic dispersion of this illness all over Spain, and that is the massive problem for all of their health services, for their testing,” she said.