PERMIT CHAOS

Some locals get border visa success others told they don’t qualify
WEB Gladys1 pe c4 20200721

CONFUSION still reigns on whether Wangaratta is classified as a border town under the Victoria-NSW state lockdown rules in place since early July.

People who work or live in Wangaratta should be able to travel across the border to NSW as it does meet the government’s “border community” 50km criteria.

On google maps Wangaratta is a distance of 48.9km from Corowa on the border, just falling within the border passage requirements.

However, when Wangaratta Chronicle asked for clarification on the matter, the NSW Department of Customer Services and Department of Health both said it’s the other’s responsibility.

Albury accountant Michaela Gulbin, who works in Wangaratta, has been able to obtain a permit however other people she knows have not applied for one because Albury is more than 50km from Wangaratta.

“There are a lot of people who work in Wangaratta who live in Albury thinking that they can’t go to work,” Ms Gulbin said.

“There is a misconception but when you live in a border community, you have to look at the river and measure south 50km.

“I have an employee who was quite panicky about it and I was a bit worried as well.

“I have spoken to several people from Services NSW and they referred me to a COVID-19 team and after 45 minutes I was able to speak to the right person who confirmed Wangaratta is a border town.

“Premier Daniel Andrews told the Chronicle via a Zoom online conference on Friday that he would follow up the issue if he was supplied with specific case scenarios where people were unable to get a permit despite living within the border town zone.

“It is not easy and there’s people who have got very good reasons to be going to NSW and vice versa and border communities, even like Wangaratta which is 50 minutes away, that’s tough,” Mr Andrews said.

He also mentioned a second line of defence such as another series of border check points further into southern NSW and he asked to be briefed on Friday around whether there was merit in working to create those bubbles.

Mr Andrews said while the government can have a sense of control and low numbers and effective public health response, then it’s likely the current stage two rules will stay in place.

“I haven’t ruled out the notion of opening up further,” he said.

“Regional Victoria should not think there’s a set of stage 3 rules coming next week or anything like that – as long as we keep these numbers low then the chief health officer has confidence that the strategy is working.

“We’ve been aiming for the smoothest system possible but there’s nothing smooth about it, it’s been very challenging.”

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