News

Border bubble exclusions raised by Sheed

By Geoff Adams

Changes to Victoria-NSW border restrictions are on the way, but there is continuing concern that people outside of the ‘border bubble’ could be excluded from essential travel over the Murray River.

Last week a NSW public health order specifically excluded agricultural workers from Shepparton and Bendigo because of the COVID-19 infections in those municipalities.

But State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed expressed concern that the high level of agricultural activity requiring cross-border travel was being interrupted.

United States-based company Agriculture Capital Management is one of many businesses affected.

The company is harvesting citrus on a 200 ha property near Berrigan and trying to build an irrigated orchard on 420 ha north of Barooga.

The company's export packing shed is on the Victorian side of the border in Cobram.

Harvest labour travels across the Murray River, and contractors working on installing 1500 km of irrigation drip tape also come from Victoria.

Company senior regional associate Andrew Mann said the border restrictions due to COVID-19 were causing some frustration.

“We just don't know from week to week what's happening because the rules keep changing,” he said.

Mr Mann lives in Shepparton and has a permit to cross into NSW, but that permit has now expired and he is concerned about what will happen in the future.

A spokesman for Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the minister had raised the issue with her NSW counterpart and was hoping to see the restriction amended, particularly in light of the stabilising case numbers in the Shepparton region.

Katunga engineering business Stanyer Engineering, which fabricates, installs, repairs and services deep lead water bores, has also been affected as the majority of its clients are from NSW.

“Our customers have pumps in our workshop that I can't get back to them, and contracts that can't be undone when we have purchased supplies to build,” Liana Stayner said.

“My furthest destination is Hillston, which we went to not long ago before being locked out — and I need to return there, and Coleambally, to finish work.”

Mrs Stayner said her permit allowed her to travel to Hay via Deniliquin, but she couldn't do work in the latter, meaning she has already lost a job and she feared it would not be the only one.

“It's a random selection (of where I can and can't go),” she said.

“They (Service NSW) are trying to say we need to hand our jobs over to other businesses across the border.

“I've got NSW farmers not happy.”

Service NSW said different permits, such as the Border Zone Resident permit or Critical Service Worker permit, the latter of which Mrs Stayner holds, require the holder to stay within a particular geographic region.

The conditions for each permit are determined by NSW Health and outlined in the Public Health Orders.

For more information on the Public Health Orders, the border zone and border region, visit: health.nsw.gov.au/covid-19