A group of cross-party MPs from the Northern Rivers region have joined forces in a bid to ban millions of tourists from visiting until the area’s low rates of vaccination catch up to the rest of the state.
Northern NSW vaccination rates lag behind
The holiday hotspot has one of the worst rates of vaccination in NSW — partly due to supply issues but also an anti-vaccination sentiment among some locals.
Around 60 per cent of adults in the region have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and only 34 per cent have been double-jabbed.
This is well behind the rest of the state, where 84.1 percent of eligible people have received one dose and 56.6 percent are fully vaccinated.
Calls to restrict regional travel
In a letter to the premier Gladys Berejiklian and deputy premier John Barilaro, the five regional MPs warned this drastic disparity leaves the region “deeply vulnerable” to a “major influx of tourists”.
“We write to you as the NSW Members of Parliament representing the northern part of the state to urge you to consider our policy advice as different regions achieve the Government’s double dose Covid-19 vaccination target of 70 per cent at different times,” the letter began.
They argued it is “indisputable” that the Sydney region will reach the milestone some weeks before the North Coast and requested an adjustment to public health orders to restrict non-essential travel to the coast to prevent an outbreak of the widely-infectious Delta variant.
“This is not just good health policy; it also provides Sydneysiders with an opportunity to show courtesy and solidarity with us the same day we did with them in their darkest hour by redirecting some of our vaccine supply to its HSC students.
“We cross party MPs recognised that we are all in this together, and stand ready to brief you further on the situation.”
The letter was signed by Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, Tweed MP Geoff Provest, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, Ballina MP Tamara Smith and NSW Upper House member Ben Franklin.
Holiday hotspot bracing for tourist rush
Northern NSW is one of Australia’s most sought-after destinations, attracting more than 4 million domestic tourists last year despite multiple lockdowns.
A whopping 74 per cent of them came from within NSW, with 33 per cent travelling from Sydney and 41 per cent from regional areas, according to data from Destination NSW.
‘Cautious decision’ to be made on health advice
The Premier said she will take a “cautious” and “considered” approach to regional travel when restrictions are lifted.
Ms Berejiklian was quizzed at Friday's Covid-19 briefing about the genuine concerns that some regions like Northern NSW will not cope with a rush of tourists when the lockdown ends in a few weeks time.
She said the government will consider the situation when NSW hits the 70 per cent vaccination target, which is on track to be reached in mid-October.
“While we appreciate all those concerns expressed by people, we will make cautious decisions based on the health advice and will make their decisions as we approach that 70 per cent,” she said.
“As we know, and the Doherty report says, depending on the number of cases, will determine how mobile we can be outside our areas and Greater Sydney for Sydneysiders, and will take the approach as we have on most things in a cautious, considered way.”
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