Victorian border closure sees masses of departures, cancellations from FSC

Visitors are having to pack up and leave at short notice with the announcement of a hard border closure with Victoria.
Visitors are having to pack up and leave at short notice with the announcement of a hard border closure with Victoria.

Accommodation providers in Eden, Merimbula, Tathra and surrounds are facing a mass exodus of holiday-makers from Victoria.

Merimbula Visitor Information centre manager Chris Nicholls said Victorian visitors normally made up about 70 per cent of holiday traffic on the Far South Coast and the border closure announcement was causing bedlam.

"It's absolutely awful news, it's extremely bad," Mr Nicholls said.

"Most people have heard the news and are in the process of cancelling their accommodation or have already decided to leave."

Accommodation providers are hearing reports of bumper-to-bumper traffic already on the Princes Highway.

While many are packing up to head home after the announcement on Thursday, Jodie Hilliers at Merimbula's South Seas Motel said cancellations began on Wednesday.

"We've had more than 25 calls for cancellations starting since Wednesday, people started to get a bit nervous that there was talk of Melbourne going back into lockdowns," Ms Hilliers said.

"And now that the border is closing, cancellations are coming thick and fast."

She said as many as five families had already left by Thursday afternoon and many others were packing up to do so.

Managing director of Tathra Beachside Carmen Risby said they were flooded with calls on Thursday afternoon and have had to ask people request cancellations in writing via email.

"We were not able to deal with the volume of calls coming in," Ms Risby said.

"We're trying to be empathetic and understanding of everyone, but people are asking what is happening with the border, what is Gladys [Berejiklian] doing, what is Dan Andrews doing - and some of those are the same questions we're asking."

Ms Risby said caravan parks on the Victorian side of the border were overwhelmed with an influx of returning families and were having to turn people away.

"They're full and there is nowhere for people to go, the highway is bumper to bumper - and I don't think the hysteria created by the announcement, I certainly don't think the consequences of that have been taken into consideration," she said.

"Luckily we're fairly close to the border, but what about those further north like in Byron's Bay, how are they expected to get home in time?"

Both Mr Nicholls and Ms Risby noted the ironic coincidence of having to help thousands of visitors leave the area exactly one year apart for two separate emergencies.

"It's within days of saying goodbye to everyone last year when we had the fires," Mr Nicholls said.

"We know what happened last year," Ms Risby said. "It took 17 hours to get to Cooma and exactly the same thing is happening exactly one year later, I feel like we should have learned our lesson."

"It's about the mental wellbeing and livelihoods for families at what was supposed to be a happy time."

She said she held fears for the large numbers of Victorians now rushing south and stronger direction on a Federal level could have prevented a short-notice direction to pack up and leave.

"It's a major wake-up call for the Federal Government to step in and make a federal code."

Ms Risby said the one saving grace for accommodation providers on the coast was that unlike last year during the fires, the Far South Coast is still open to holiday makers and is still a beautiful spot to visit for those from around NSW and other states that were allowed to travel.

This story Border closure sparks holiday-maker exodus first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.