Wodonga-based Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie today welcomed the NSW government’s move to finally expand the border zone after six weeks of livelihoods being disrupted and even devastated.
The NSW Premier today expanded the zone back to a 50 kilometre radius and eased restrictions to allow for necessary daily life activities.
“The arbitrary two-kilometre zone imposed by the NSW government inflicted an incredible amount of disruption and anxiety within border communities on so many fronts including an inability for access health care, children unable to attend school, businesses closing, people losing their jobs, locals unable to visit loved ones in palliative care or attend funerals, or even relocate.
“Many of the cases my office and that of my colleagues have been helping are absolutely heart breaking, all of which were avoidable if our state governments had of shut down and isolated COVID hotspots rather than an entire region.
“The border-based Nationals team have relentlessly lobbied for common-sense at all levels of government. Today’s announcement is a start but more needs to be done.”
Senator McKenzie said governments must also move immediately to prioritise an agriculture workers code to allow movement of farmers and workers across borders, beyond the current 100 kilometre zone.
“We’ve got contractors who need to head north to begin the winter crop harvest in what is looking to be one of the largest crops from rain after years of drought. Our farmers can’t afford another kick in the guts from further delays that will threaten their crops and hopes of a decent income for the first time in a long while.
“Contractors are also urgently needed for the fruit picking season, shearing, hay and silage production and within the dairy industry, and farmers need to access their properties and tend to livestock.
“Just this morning a contractor informed us they’ve had to pull out of a second contract in a matter of days because they’re unable to get staff and equipment over the border for critical infrastructure work within the ag sector.
“This not only impacts the viability of the business and its staff but the companies and irrigators who relied on these works.
“This cannot continue – the state and federal government must act immediately to get a national ag workers code in place and ensure our agriculture sector can function at full capacity across the country.
“It’ll be our multi-billion dollar agriculture and food processing industry in our regions that’ll play a key role in the COVID recovery so let’s get a move on.”
“This whole border fiasco demonstrates the need for a nationally consistent approach to border closures and quarantine processes so regional and rural communities can function, as we navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic.”