Thursday, 26 August 2021
LIKE all residents in the Northern Tablelands I’m disappointed that the Regional NSW lockdown will continue for another fortnight.
Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to hundreds of business owners, families and individuals and I understand that people’s relationships, businesses and lives are under enormous pain and stress because of the unique and very challenging set of circumstances we all find ourselves in at the moment.
I would have loved the lockdown to be lifted – we have no current active cases and all sewage tests across the Northern Tablelands have returned negative results – but the decision has been taken that we need two more weeks to protect us from the spread of the virus.
The news about COVID fragments detected in Tamworth’s sewage today and increasing positive cases along the coast, Hunter and central west, no doubt played a part in this decision.
Here at home, I’ve advocated for the priorities of our region, and to be released from lockdown, to senior members of the Government over the past week. I’ve also been urging for the establishment of very clear criteria for entering and leaving lockdowns, by LGA, such as clear weekly sewage testing, no community cases and no surrounding areas of concern.
There comes a time in my view where the ‘health advice’ cannot be the sole determinant of lockdowns and restrictions. There’s no doubt the health advice is critical, but this should be tempered by other considerations, such as impact on people’s mental health and the local economy, especially the survival of small and medium sized businesses, which are the backbone of our country towns.
For example, if you look at cigarettes, the health advice is unequivocal – smoking kills and it should be prohibited. However, governments have not prohibited smoking, even though they accept the health advice, instead opting to regulate the marketing and distribution of cigarettes and restrict where people can smoke, to protect the health of the vast majority of people who do not.
As long as we continue to have no cases in our region and negative sewage testing results, I believe ending the lockdown in two weeks’ time is absolutely critical for our businesses and our communities.
I’ll continue to work closely with Deputy Premier John Barilaro on this and to try to lift the lockdown for the Northern Tablelands in a fortnight’s time.
I am also working with the Deputy Premier, NSW Cross Border Commissioner and others to push the Queensland Government to soften their current hard border rules, punctuated by the despicable closure of the Mungindi Hospital.
I know this is a very difficult time for our communities, largely because we have done everything asked of us so far.
Let’s all mask up and get the jab, so hopefully the Northern Tablelands can come out of lockdown in two weeks’ time and we can return to our normal lives.
That’s what I’m working every single day to achieve!