More residents on the New South Wales-Victorian border will be able to cross than at any point since it was closed more than two months ago, under an expansion of the so-called border bubble.
- The border bubble is expanding to include thousands more people from Friday
- The new travel zone which extends further into both states than initially thought by local officials
- Indigo Mayor Jenny O’Connor said the decision meant her community could finally start getting back on its feet
Border communities have welcomed the new travel zone, which extends further into both states than the 50 kilometres proposed by the NSW Premier during her visit to Albury on Tuesday.
Previously, most of Indigo Shire Council — home to more than 1,000 locals who usually crossed into NSW for work — had been left off the map, devastating the local economy.
But Mayor Jenny O’Connor said the decision meant her community could finally start getting back on its feet.
“The whole shire is included, so that’s fantastic,” she said.
“It’s a big relief that people can start to get back to almost normal by being able to travel to their businesses across the border and stay at home and not be in motels.
“This border closure was on top of all of the other restrictions and the fires and all the other impacts that have kept our businesses under huge pressure, really since New Year’s Eve.”
‘I’ll be able to see my house’
The Victorian town of Wangaratta is 45 kilometres from the border but wasn’t included in the original 50km zone in place when the border was first closed on July 8.
Resident Dot Fox left for Albury, where she works, on May 30 to pre-empt the border closure and has been stuck there ever since.
She’s paid thousands in accommodation costs, slept in her car and had to buy new clothes because she only thought the border would be closed for a few weeks.
But now she’ll finally be able to go home.
“I’ll be able to see my house and my mates and that’ll be great,” she said
“The champagne will be flowing I’ll tell you.”
Mayor Dean Rees says the new border region is more generous than he thought it would be.
“We can now get a bit of normality back into people’s lives,” he said.
Health service helped
The biggest provider of healthcare between Melbourne and Canberra has been significantly affected by the closure, as it straddles the border.
Albury Wodonga Health CEO Michael Kalimnios said this new border zone was a great help.
“It will means we won’t have to enter into what has been quite a laborious process of getting exemptions that live outside the previously identified border zone,” he said.
The health service has also just locked in enough medical specialists to help staff Albury hospital’s Emergency Department, after the closure stopped essential locum doctors from Melbourne working there.
“It gives our staff an opportunity who have really gone above and beyond particularly in ED over the last few weeks an opportunity to rest and recover,” said Mr Kalimnios.