Political leaders from across the political spectrum joined together today to urgently call for the establishment of a Tweed Cross Border Community Zone as a solution to combat the growing border crisis.
The proposed zone would be established in the Tweed local government area as a pilot, with it to be expanded to surrounding LGAs should it prove successful.
The call followed a meeting today between Mayor of Tweed Chris Cherry (independent), Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals), Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens), Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor) and Ballina MLC Catherine Cusack (Liberal) in a show of bi-partisan support to work together for the benefit of the region.
The group unanimously agreed to support and empower Tweed MP Geoff Provest to make urgent representations on their behalf to the NSW Premier and Deputy Premier to engage the NSW Cross Border Commissioner, in conjunction with Regional NSW and Tweed Shire Council, to develop a proposal to establish a pilot cross border community zone around the Tweed LGA.
Speaking on behalf of the leaders, Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry said the group discussed the current impacts of the border closure on the Northern Rivers and an urgent path forward for the region.
“Every day we’re hearing case after case of the dire impacts the border closure is having on our families and businesses across the Northern Rivers,” Cr Cherry said.
“We cannot sit by and watch our communities crumble like this. We have to work together to forge a solution that works for the benefit of all – while ensuring we maintain a COVID-Safe community moving forward.
“The combination of lockdown and hard border closure means our residents and businesses are experiencing extremely harsh restrictions. Some business owners are unable to physically access their own premises, the construction industry is completely shut down and there are no ‘buddy bubbles’ even for immediate family members and partners.”
The proposed Tweed Cross Border Community Zone is in keeping with a letter sent by Cr Cherry to the premiers of NSW and Queensland last week calling for the establishment of checkpoints on the southern and western extremities of the Tweed.
This would replace the hard border control on the Queensland border at Coolangatta, Numinbah and Tomewin, allowing Tweed residents to return to work, hospitals and schools, while adhering to existing public health orders.
Should the initial pilot prove successful, the zone could be expanded to include the Byron, Ballina and Lismore LGAs and potentially be a model for other border or strategic regions in the state.
“We understand this solution is out of the box and will create a new ‘cliff face’ to the south of the Tweed, but we need to try something urgently,” Cr Cherry said.
“Statistics show this would be the best solution for the region and could allow the northern NSW economy to return to normality – as much as that is possible – in these current times.”