Devastated couple 'in limbo' living in caravan after border permit bungle

·4-min read

A couple stranded in northern NSW are devastated and confused after their approved border declaration pass was deemed invalid by Queensland Police.

Terri, 51, and Peter Chinnock, 49, are at breaking point after living in a caravan for eight weeks with no income as they desperately try to relocate to their newly-bought home in rural Queensland.

“We just want a date, an answer, a light at the end of the tunnel but we’re just in limbo,” Terri told Yahoo News.

They sold their Wollongong house in June before the Greater Sydney lockdown was announced and bought in Allora, about an hour from Toowoomba, near Terri’s family.

A photo of Terri, 51, and Peter Chinnock, 49, stand in front of their caravan, holding their dog. Source: Supplied
Terri, 51, and Peter Chinnock, 49, have been living in a caravan for eight weeks with no income. Source: Supplied

The fully-vaccinated pair set-off with two cars, a caravan and their dog in late July with plans to drive straight to their new house after seeking advice from health authorities in New South Wales and Queensland.

But they never made it across the border, finding themselves caught up in the Covid chaos when strict stay-at-home orders were extended to the entire state and the Queensland government deemed all of NSW a hotspot.

Wishful thinking over recent border changes

This week, the application process reopened to those seeking to relocate or return to Queensland.

It brought fresh hope to those stranded in northern NSW, who believed they might finally be able to cross the border. 

Terri and Peter were among many whose application for a general border declaration was seemingly approved on Sunday night.

“We got a little bit excited,” Terri said.

A screenshot of the border pass which police deemed invalid. Source: Supplied
The couple remains stranded in northern NSW after their approved border declaration pass was deemed invalid by Queensland Police. Source: Supplied

But when Peter drove to the border to double check they had the green light, he was told by police at the border the pass was invalid.

“I was upset because I had rang my family and said we’re coming home but I wasn’t surprised,” Terri recounted while holding back tears.

“I don’t understand why the passes have been issued. It’s ludicrous.”

Queensland government remains firm on road rule

The Queensland government’s border announcement was focused on a pause on hotel quarantine, and it remains firm on its decision not to let people return or relocate by road.

From last weekend, 50 additional hotel rooms became available to returning Queenslanders or people relocating to the sunshine state who have been prioritised for entry early.

Police check cars at the QLD/NSW border, Gold Coast, Thursday, September 2, 2021. Source: AAP
The Queensland government won't let people return or relocate by road, saying it poses a "significant risk". Source: AAP

There were no changes to rules on crossing by road, which the minister for health Yvette D'Ath described as a “significant risk”.

“We require people to fly in for good reason, we cannot have people driving through hotspots interstate and spreading it, potentially, through other suburbs, going through towns that have positive cases, going through towns that have positive sewage, going into our border zone and then crossing over by car, and potentially stopping elsewhere along the way,” she told reporters on Sunday.

“That creates a very significant risk which is why we’ve always said when you get an exemption you need to arrive by plane.”

In a statement to Yahoo News, a Queensland Health spokesperson added: “Due to the current risk of COVID exposure anywhere in New South Wales, the Queensland Government has issued a direction that requires returning Queenslanders and people relocating to Queensland to fly into Brisbane or the Gold Coast where they will be met by trained staff who have implemented infection control processes in-line with national standards.”

Many can’t afford costly measure 

Terri said they can’t afford the cost of flights and hotel quarantine, accusing the government of forcing people to go bankrupt.

“We just paid for all our furniture to be moved up. What do we do with our two cars, caravan and puppy dog?,” she questioned.

She said she’s met many other stranded people in NSW who are in the same situation.

“It’s crazy. Us people who can’t fly have no hope. It’s terrible.”

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