Saffin demands a better deal for our border communities

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is calling on the NSW Government to ensure a better deal for our unique border communities, particularly as residents and businesses navigate the economic and social challenges of recovering from COVID-19 restrictions.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is calling on the NSW Government to ensure a better deal for our unique border communities, particularly as residents and businesses navigate the economic and social challenges of recovering from COVID-19 restrictions.

Ms Saffin has asked new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet if the Government can develop an over-arching policy framework to ensure that local government areas within the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands regions are treated as unique border communities with specific cross-border needs with Queensland.

Ms Saffin said the Border Communities Taskforce, comprising of herself, Geoff Provest (Nationals), Tamara Smith (Greens), Catherine Cusack MLC (Liberals) and Tweed Shire Mayor Cr Chris Cherry (Independent) successfully lobbied NSW and Queensland governments on restoring the border zone in recent months.

“The Taskforce, together with Nationals MPs Chris Gulaptis, Ben Franklin MLC and Gurmesh Singh were also able to negotiate crucial breathing space to allow Northern Rivers LGAs to lift their double vaccination rates ahead of Sydney opening up,” Ms Saffin said.

Ms Saffin in Parliament this month praised NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish and his team for the terrific work they do in difficult circumstances but she believes a policy framework, backed by more funding, would make work and daily life easier for thousands of residents who criss-cross the border.

She also put on record veteran Tenterfield Shire Councillor Gary Verri’s current thoughts on the cross-border situation, the subject of an earlier email to the Premier:

I am a Councillor that represents A Ward of Tenterfield Shire, the ward starts on the outskirts of Tenterfield town and adjoins the Queensland border as far northeast as Woodenbong. The area of White Swamp is closer to Brisbane than it is to Tenterfield. Therein lies our problem; all of the visitors to the tourist venues in A Ward are entirely dependent on the Queensland border being open, and while I realise the NSW Government can’t get the Queensland Government to open the border, I believe that the NSW Government could and should help the border businesses.

The villages of Liston, Legume, Jennings depend entirely on Queensland for patronage to the businesses in those villages. Urbenville also relies to some extent on Queensland. Some of the border tourist ventures haven’t had visitors in months and at present there is no point in opening until the borders are open without restrictions. At Jennings, the hotel was planning the celebration of its centennial next year (2022) but as the pub’s licensee of 15 years points out, the till is empty, without trade or patrons being denied access because of the border restrictions. Jennings is the smaller part of the twin towns of Wallangarra/Jennings and relies on Wallangarra for most of its patronage. I’m not standing for Council in the upcoming elections so I’m writing to you out of a sense of duty.

Ms Saffin said Cr Verri had always stood up for more isolated towns and villages, and his contribution points to a lot of problems we have in border communities.

“It can be very challenging and difficult. We need to make things easier,” Ms Saffin said.

Thursday, 28 October 2021.

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