The 'utter chaos' of closing a state border like no other

PERMIT CHECK: NSW Police were looking at permits in all cars crossing the border from Victoria into NSW on Wednesday. Picture: MARK JESSER
PERMIT CHECK: NSW Police were looking at permits in all cars crossing the border from Victoria into NSW on Wednesday. Picture: MARK JESSER

A man was arrested allegedly trying to cross the border at Corowa on Wednesday and three others were turned away at major checkpoints.

A 34-year-old from Victoria allegedly attempted to drive in NSW along Carlyle Road just after 11am, telling police he intended to cross the border despite not having a valid exemption.

He was arrested and taken to Albury police station to assist police with their inquiries, while his wife and three children complied with police direction and returned to Victoria.

Three Melbourne drivers were also caught at different checkpoints as police examined permits in the hours after the border was closed at midnight.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the experience of permit checks had been "a positive one" with the exception of those turned back.

"Some vehicles have been turned around, sent back to Victoria, because the drivers came from postcodes that are of threat from the virus," he said.


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian then issued a stern warning to border communities to not travel outside of their regions, and for people not to come into border areas.

"I ask everybody in those border communities ... do not travel to other parts of NSW unless you absolutely have to," she said.

"If you are an Albury resident, we do not recommend you travelling to other parts of NSW, and if we feel, in the next few days, or as early as tomorrow, that we need to further protect the community, we will consider what we do north of Albury.

"If you live in a border community and you're a NSW resident, please do not travel outside of your border community at this time.

"When you have communities mixing with each other, crossing the border, it carries enormous risk.

"The government is considering what further action we take to make sure the bubble, as we call it, of those border communities are contained, which could further compromise your ability to move freely."

Permit confusion in the hours leading up to the border closure has seen businesses lose more than 60 per cent of their bookings.

Business owners were forced to ask all Victorian clients to cancel their appointments at places including beauty and hair salons on Tuesday before the permit system came into effect.

Panicked clients also rushed to cancel appointments before the permit system came online just hours before midnight which said cross-border communities could go about "daily life" as normal.

For Basq Beauty Spa and Wellness owner Courtney Callesen more than 60 per cent of appointments for this Saturday, one of their busiest days, were cancelled in a matter of hours.

And to add to the confusion, the Albury-based day spa has been all-but hidden from street view with the main border checkpoint outside their front door.

"We knew they would be setting up the checkpoint close to us but we didn't expect them to be right out the front," Ms Callesen said.

Residents eligible for a border permit because they live within 50 kilometres of the NSW-Victoria state line have also been left frustrated by a glitch in the application system.

It comes after the Service NSW website crashed on Tuesday night, within half an hour of opening for applications.

The eligibility requirements released by the NSW government allow anyone within 50 kilometres of the border to get a permit - meaning Wodonga, Beechworth and Rutherglen residents would be successful, but those in Wangaratta and Bright would not.

The exceptions are members of Parliament, a person providing critical services, seasonal workers, boarding school and university students, and carers.

But Beechworth and Yackandandah residents found their postcodes were not listed with Service NSW as within the "border bubble" so they were wrongly denied a permit on Wednesday.

Yackandandah-based Tim Roberts is the managing director of Powdersafe, an Australia-wide company in the mail safety business, and spent more than an hour on hold with Service NSW trying to get a permit.

"Yackandandah is not recognised as a border town even though, obviously, we are in a 50km range," he said.

"The reason given was a postcode problem with the IT folks. I'm sure our postcodes have been around for a long time and jeez Google maps will give you a good idea.

"Utter chaos and I feel sorry for the folks on the phone at Service NSW."

This story The 'utter chaos' of closing a state border like no other first appeared on The Canberra Times.