THE strict COVID-19 travel restrictions along the New South Wales-Victoria and Victoria-South Australia borders will be eased slightly in coming days, allowing freer movement over a wider area for border communities, including farmers and agricultural service providers.
NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, announced today that in the next 10 days travel restrictions for residents on the NSW-Victoria border will be eased with NSW extending its border zone to 50 kilometres beyond the border for Victorian residents with a permit to enter the state, and a 100km zone for agricultural workers.
SA Premier Steven Marshall also announced today that SA will reinstate the buffer zone along the Victoria-SA border on Thursday night, allowing people to travel freely for essential purposes within a 40-kilometre radius of the border.
The move will only come into effect if western Victoria does not record any new COVID-19 cases from community transmission between now and Friday.
The latest easing of border restrictions come after the Queensland Government announced on the weekend it would open the way for farmers and rural service providers to more easily cross between Queensland and NSW by declaring agriculture an essential service under the COVID-19 border restrictions.
NSW Farmers seeks urgent exemption into Victoria
Earlier today NSW Farmers released a statement seeking an urgent exemption for farmers in NSW to travel into Victoria for essential agricultural activities.
NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle said the agricultural permit system for the Victorian border only works one way, unlike the new class exemption announced yesterday for farmers and agricultural workers needing to move between Queensland and NSW,
“An agricultural permit system was announced last week to allow farm workers to travel from Victoria into NSW, which was a step forward, but farmers in NSW still can’t travel to farms in Victoria,” Mr Arkle said.
“We have members who can’t cross the border to look after their livestock herds in Victoria and are relying on the goodwill of their neighbours on Victorian properties to manage their livestock.”
“Our member survey indicates that 90% of farm businesses on the NSW-Victorian border have felt an impact from the border closure with 66% of our members needing to cross the border on a more than weekly basis.”
Mr Arkle said NSW Farmers supports the National Cabinet’s decision to develop a national agricultural worker code and ensure security for the food supply chain.
NSW Farmers and other state farming organisations wrote to the Prime Minister and Premiers last week seeking an urgent commitment to develop a national agriculture workers code.
“It clearly has to be a national approach to classing agriculture as essential service. The flow of labour and machinery and contractors is national, so the National Cabinet has made the right decision and we look forward to working with the NSW Government and the Agriculture Minister on having input into this code.”
“But farmers who need to get to their farms in Victoria cannot wait another two weeks for the development of national code. The Queensland border has movement both ways for essential agricultural activities and we call on the NSW Government to do the same for the Victorian border,” Mr Arkle concluded.