Border travel bubble floated

Tuesday June 23, 2020

Published by The Border Watch

By Raquel Mustillo

Mount Gambier MP calls for neighbouring communities to be exempt from restrictions

THE State Government says regional measures could be considered in opening interstate travel with Victoria following calls by civic leaders to establish a crossborder regional travel bubble.

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has urged the State Government to allow residents within a 100km radius of the border to be permitted to freely travel across state lines without needing to quarantine upon entry to South Australia.

Western Victoria has kept COVID-19 at bay, with neighbouring councils Glenelg and West Wimmera Shire recording only one case of the virus for each area.

Nearby councils have also recorded small numbers, with three cases recorded in Horsham, two in Southern Grampians and one in the Port Fairy-based Moyne Shire.

Mr Bell said a cross-border travel bubble, which could encompass communities including Casterton, Coleraine, Portland, Edenhope, Dartmoor and Heywood, would support South Australian and Victorian businesses.

“There are no active cases in western Victoria and the cases in the last week have predominately been located in Melbourne,” he said.

“As school holidays are coming up, people are wanting to travel and those who live in western Victoria are unlikely to want to travel to Melbourne where the majority of new cases are.

“By establishing a travel bubble, we could support both the businesses and health of our community by having the borders open to western Victoria.”

The independent MP said the system could be based on postcodes, with motorists required to present their licence to police at the existing checkpoints.

“The travel bubble could include residents who live in South western Victorian postcodes starting with 33,” Mr Bell said.

“Motorists could have their licences checked at the border and if they live within the travel bubble area, they would be allowed to enter South Australia without needing to quarantine.”

Last week, Victorian Government announced its State of Emergency would be extended for another four weeks as the state faced a second wave of infections, currently concentrated in Melbourne.

Despite setting a tentative border reopening date of July 20, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said the state may not open borders to its neighbour until the surge is under control.

“We will not be opening our borders if it’s not safe to do sot,” Mr Marshall said.

But a State Government spokesperson said “regional measures could be considered in the future”.

MacKillop MP Nick McBride said the current border control measures had caused significant angst for travellers across both states.

“My office has fielded a lot of inquiries and concerns about the cross-border control and it has resulted in massive impacts across work and business, health and education,” he said.

“I agree with a cross-border travel area as long as residence could be proven and as long as the area is COVID-19 free.”

Mount Gambier mayor Lynette Martin backed the establishment of a quarantine-free zone in south west Victoria and the Limestone Coast, saying interstate residents were unlikely to venture to COVID-19 hot spots.

“If we can attract people to the Limestone Coast, it will be beneficial to our businesses as many of our businesses rely on trade with western Victoria,” she said.

“I am sure the tourism and hospitality industry would enjoy the prospect of these people travelling to Mount Gambier.

“Businesses at Nelson would be suffering because of the interstate restrictions and a travel bubble would also help them by allowing South Australians to visit without needing to quarantine.”

Western Victorian upper house MP Bev McArthur supported allowing crossborder activity because much of the area had been untouched by COVID-19 cases.

“Clearly, metropolitan areas with higher population density and with greater reliance on public transport represent a completely different scenario to rural parts of the state,” she said.

However, Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce president Hayley Neumann urged caution against hastily opening the border while Victoria grappled with COVID-19.

“The rest of the border being opened does not help us much, but maybe they can look at opening up individual regions,” she said.

“While there still is community transmission, I think we need to be careful.

“We thought we would be locked down until September so I am grateful we have been allowed to open up with the restrictions.”