Community tensions have broken out along South Australia’s border with Victoria, with many local residents and essential travellers confused by changes to travel arrangements amid the worsening coronavirus situation in Melbourne.
- Victorian border residents frequently access services in SA
- They want that to continue, but some are unsure about the impact of a new pre-approval process
- One local mayor has suggested creating a travel bubble between cross-border regions
Some locals in the region have reported witnessing outbursts of abuse and vandalism aimed at Victorian travellers who have legitimately crossed into South Australian towns.
A new online pre-approval process for incoming visitors was introduced today, but some residents say it has led to more, not less, confusion.
Expectant mother Elise Dunwell — who lives in the small Victorian town of Nelson near the SA border — has been crossing into SA to see her doctor.
“Being quite pregnant I need that option to go across,” she said.
“Our essential services, our shopping and our medical services and all that are usually in Mount Gambier.
Ms Dunwell said she had previously been turned around at the border while trying to visit family, and her experiences had so far been mixed.
“I’ve had two different exemptions given to me, which I haven’t had an issue with,” she said.
“But, again, every time you cross over, it’s a different story as to ‘why are you going over, where has this exemption come from?’
“There is still confusion now … I guess we’ll find out when we go to cross over this week.”
Another resident, Sally, from SA’s South East, told ABC Radio Adelaide she was also aware of antagonisms between locals from both sides of the border.
“We have cross-border community — we have friends who live only moments across the border, who shop locally in Mount Gambier or Naracoorte or other communities,” she said.
“We are citizens of one country, we don’t live our lives within state boundaries.”
Regional travel bubble considered
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens acknowledged there had been confusion about the new online pre-approval process, but said existing exemptions would remain valid.
Commissioner Stevens said more than 4,000 applications had so far been submitted for pre-approval to travel.
Police patrols and checkpoints in SA’s South East have been boosted in recent days and a plan to allow unrestricted travel into the state by July 20 was yesterday scrapped because of the risk posed by Victoria’s outbreaks.
However, the SA Government today confirmed it may consider a partial travel bubble involving regional Victoria.
SA Premier Steven Marshall said the state’s transition committee would consider lifting quarantine restrictions for those in regional areas first.
He said the committee would look at epidemiological data from the ACT and New South Wales when it next meets on Friday and also suggested “they could be looking at other areas of Victoria”.
Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie today voiced concerns over the border situation, saying regional Victorians should not be penalised for COVID-19 case spikes in Melbourne.
“State premiers who say ‘we’re not letting Victorians in’ must realise Victoria is so much more than Melbourne, as we Victorians who choose to live outside Melbourne can attest,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Regional Victorians have done the right thing and are not seeing a second wave or a spike in COVID cases.
“Those regional small businesses and tourism operators have been suffering extreme economic impacts — not just of COVID-19, but bushfires and drought.”
‘We’ve served our time’
The idea of a travel bubble between SA and regional Victoria has found support on both sides of the border.
Darryl Lewis, who runs the pub in Murrayville about 25 kilometres from the SA border, said different rules should apply for those in regional Victoria.
He and others in Murrayville have had to obtain exemption permits to enter SA because their nearest fuel station is at Pinnaroo.
“The police are doing a good job at the border — they’re sending people back who are trying to get through and going to South Australia without any good reason,” he said.
Mr Lewis said people in the Victorian Mallee were “a bit wary of who is coming” from Melbourne, but most believed they should be able to enter South Australia because western Victoria remains free of COVID-19.
“We’ve served our time. We’re doing the right thing.”
District Council of Grant mayor Richard Sage said his community, around Mount Gambier and along the SA-Victoria border, included “a lot of businesses that operate on both sides”.
“Areas close to the border that haven’t had a recorded outbreak in a long period may get exemptions,” he said.
“We’ve got people — nurses and teachers — who live across the border in Victoria and travel into South Australia … forestry workers coming back and forth every day.”