NSW Minister's excuse for flouting coronavirus rules to visit holiday home

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has been spotted staying at his holiday home on the Central Coast despite authorities pleading with Sydneysiders to stay out of regional towns during the coronavirus outbreak.

Photos reveal Mr Harwin was reportedly at his Pearl Beach holiday home on Wednesday afternoon despite his principal place of residence being Sydney's eastern suburbs, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Mr Harwin told the publication he had been at the holiday home for about three weeks and in that time had only travelled to and from Sydney for a medical appointment.

The minister said he was at the holiday house for health reasons and added that his work-from-home arrangements on the Central Coast were better than in his small apartment in Sydney.

Don Harwin said he was in Pearl Beach for health reasons. Source: AAP

It comes despite the NSW government saying all non-essential travel to regional NSW towns must be cancelled and urged Easter holidaymakers to indefinitely postpone their visits to slow the spread of COVID-19.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the safest course of action is for people to stay in their own communities.

Speaking on Thursday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “disappointed” with Mr Harwin’s actions and stressed the importance of her colleagues abiding by the rules.

However, she said he claims to have arrived in Pearl Beach prior to the restrictions.

“But as I say today, it’s not strictly about the rules it’s about the message to the community,” she said, also stating authorities wouldn’t hesitate in fining Mr Harwin if his story didn’t add up.

Ms Berejiklian said Mr Harwin was now returning to Sydney.

One Pearl Beach resident told Yahoo News Australia the small community had seen an influx in temporary residents in recent days.

“Pearl Beach is a sleepy little town where you recognise everyone on the street, now the whole town is full of blow-ins jogging in lycra that I've never seen before,” he said.

“It's largely an elderly population here, so I'm pretty concerned about what the influx of Sydneysiders could have up here.

“On sunny days recently the beach is full of people sun baking like there's no pandemic.”

Mr Harwin's holiday home in Pearl Beach appeared vacant on Thursday morning. Source: Supplied

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said people should be in lockdown wherever their "primary home" is to prevent regional hospitals becoming overwhelmed. 

Officials across the world have been caught flouting self-isolation rules including Scotland's chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood who resigned after being busted travelling to a second home in a rural area of Scotland's east coast.

New Zealand Health Minister David Clark offered his resignation to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after he was caught breaking the rules of the country's lockdown by mountain-biking near his Dunedin home.

Comment has been sought from Mr Harwin and the NSW premier who was reportedly told of the arrangements a few days ago. 

- with AAP

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