Livelihoods threatened by ‘months, years’ of border closures
BORDER residents are being left behind after concrete bollards remain in place on Southern Downs roads, “for months, or years” after Queensland Premier declared a reopening of the state on Friday, July 11.
Resident and business owner Stuart Bell told the Daily News the community was starting to despair, as the hard lockdown extended into the foreseeable future.
“(The State Government) told me the hard borders would remain closed until there were no active cases of coronavirus on the east coast of Australia,” Mr Bell said.
“They told me it could be months, or years, until we get a vaccine and we can access our main economic centre, Warwick, again.
“That changed everything for us.”
The residents are able to cross the border near Stanthorpe or Killarney, however this adds hours to their daily commute.
After struggling to survive for the past three months, Mr Bell believes the news could push some residents to their breaking point.
“We can’t keep doing this,” he said.
“This is hurting people further than you’d think, it isn’t just two or three families, it’s a big area that is affected.
“Cullendore Rd is the economic lifeline of this community.”
The safety of residents has also been called into question, as concrete blockades prevent rural firefighters from protecting their neighbours over the border.
In previous years, the Wildash Rural Fire Brigade has often been called to assist, but now travel times have extended beyond the point of viability.
“We’re worried about those fires, they’ve been happening for four or five years now and the fire crews across the border are called in on a regular basis,” Mr Bell said.
“They no longer have access to us.”
In desperation, many have written to Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi, urging for action at the local government level and asking for the installation of electronic gates, such as those installed in the Goondiwindi region.
These gates are closed except to residents and workers in the immediate area, all of whom are issued a key.
The Mayor said he supported the idea, but the SDRC couldn’t find the funds to construct them by themselves, due to the narrow budget.
“Producers out there need to work on both sides of the border (and the additional travel) puts serious input costs into their businesses,” he said.
“We need a report.”
SDRC director of infrastructure services Seren McKenzie said staff had been working with the Goondiwindi Regional Council to develop a plan, but new challenges arose after the one-week permit rule was introduced last week.
Cr Pennisi also said he would not want to make the option available to some areas without offering the same opportunity to others, which could greatly drive up the cost.
The council plans to appeal to the State Government for financial assistance.
A report is currently being prepared for councillors to endorse during their general meeting on July 22, and is expected the endorsement will be forwarded to the relevant department.
“We need to find a solution,” Mr Bell said.
“The governments need to work together, this affects businesses and employees on both sides.”