State border closures and swiftly changing restrictions are causing headaches for regional Victorians, who say the different states’ strict permit systems are confusing and flawed.
- The Victorian and South Australian governments have imposed strict border controls
- A farming couple from Nelson in south-west Victoria have permanently closed their crop spraying business due to changing COVID-19 restrictions
- One Casterton family made a mad dash home from Queensland, driving 16 hours without stopping to avoid New South Wales red zones
Dianne McKinnon and her husband Brian had to flee Queensland and drive 1,200 kilometres to cross the New South Wales border into Victoria.
“We were in Queensland in a green zone, hadn’t been near any red zones because we wanted to keep ourselves safe,” Ms McKimmon said.
“When you come back to Victoria on a green permit you have to cross New South Wales in 24 hours.”
Mad dash home
Ms McKinnon said their alarm went off at four o’clock in the morning on July 19 and the couple got on the road immediately.
“It’s a big drive towing a big van, a lot of road works and it is quite tiring.”
The pair arrived back in Victoria at 9:00pm that night, crossing the border at Koondrook and parked their van to make a pit stop for the night before heading home to Casterton, in the state’s south-west, the next morning.
“We’ve had our COVID-19 tests now and we’ll just have to isolate until it’s negative,” Ms McKinnion said.
“We’ve got a little hobby farm so we can stay away from people, and we’ll probably do that for two weeks to be courteous.”
On Tuesday, when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews extended the state’s lockdown and tightened border restrictions with New South Wales, he said residents had been warned for four weeks to return to Victoria.
Shutting up shop
Sue and Mark Carrison live 3 kilometres east of the South Australian border in Nelson and have been frustrated with the SA government’s approach to lockdowns and lock-outs for over a year.
The pair decided to permanently shut down their agricultural spraying business due to the ongoing disruptions of COVID-19 restrictions and border closures.
“You know how crops work — it’s not like a shop where you get steady business every week — it’s seasonal,” Ms Carrison said.
“So when the restrictions came in that we could only go 40 km into South Australia it was no longer viable.
The Carrison’ also run a cattle farm 15 kilometres away, across the SA border.
In order to visit their farm to check on livestock, Mr Carrison needs to travel to Mt Gambier to get a COVID-19 test, which takes approximately three hours to complete due to the queue.
“When things are not good with COVID-19 we choose not to see people, but we’re being forced to go into a city to get tested, when if you left it alone, we actually wouldn’t have close contact with anybody,” Ms Carrison said.
Last year when South Australia completely blocked Victorians from entering the state, Ms Carrison said her husband needed to ‘sneak’ across the border illegally to care for their livestock.
“It’s just ridiculous to think we had to do this, but we actually snuck our caravan over to the farm, which we were told we could have gotten charged for, and Mark went over and didn’t come back until he was allowed back.”
“We weren’t prepared to not look after the cattle.”
Mark Gubbins’ farms both sides of the border and was also locked out of SA for seven weeks last year when the total travel ban was in place.
“That was tough. We got our COVID mitigation plan in and rejected because it wasn’t on their template — when they didn’t have a template,” Mr Gubbins said.
The cattle farmer said he is currently staying in Coorong, three hours west of the Vic/SA border, spreading fertilizer in a bid not to waste hours of work time at border checkouts, as he has not got staff on-site to assist with production.
“We can’t transition our staff over, because I have an essential workers permit but we didn’t have that for our staff,” Mr Gubbins said.
“Because every time we’ve brought staff over here it’s been in a non-bad COVID time when there haven’t been full lockdowns.”
“The permit allows me to come and go fairly freely, but there is obviously testing regimes and isolation and that sort of thing.”
Mr Gubbins said he was more confident the government has the system sorted out now.
“I think we’ve got to a place now where if you do the right paperwork and have the right approvals you can come and go.”