‘It's like saying pubs are open but... we can fine you’
TRAVELLING anywhere for non-essential services is currently illegal and could land you with an $11,000 fine or six months in prison.
But some community leaders believe further measures could help to deter visitors to the Northern Rivers to help hamper the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said he'd still like to see NSW close its borders, at least over Easter.
He'd also like to see the short-term holiday letting sector closed during this time.
He said people can still list their properties on Airbnb and similar sites, but if you book a stay in one without a legitimate reason, you'll risk serious consequences.
"It's like saying pubs can be open but if you're in the pub, we can fine you," Cr Richardson said.
Cr Richardson said there were ample other accommodation options who needed accommodation for legitimate reasons.
He noted Tweed MP Geoff Provest didn't support closing the border because of the policing resources this would demand.
But with some Queenslanders still visiting northern NSW, Cr Richardson said it could be more effective to tackle that issue at its source.
Ben Franklin, a member of the Legislative Council who's based on the North Coast, also has a preference for NSW closing its borders for at least the Easter period.
"It's illegal, under the Public Health Orders, for people to go on holidays," Mr Franklin said.
"Police will fine you if you do that.
"I'd like to ensure we do everything we can to keep our community safe, particularly over Easter.
"I am concerned that there are people coming from Queensland to the Northern Rivers.
"I live here, and like everyone else I've seen an increase in Queensland number plates over the last few days."
Mr Franklin said he understood the mayor's opposition to online short term letting platforms operating.
But he said they're vital for essential workers who need a place to stay.
He said the onus was on individuals planning to travel and hosts to ensure only those with a good reason to stay in the region were booking accommodation.
"There are responsibilities both ways," Mr Franklin said.
He said hosts should be asking for evidence as to why their guests must travel.
So far, the State Government has indicated no move to close the NSW border in the manner Queensland has done.
"I'd prefer to have that extra layer of security at this point," Mr Franklin said.
Local testing welcomed
A COVID-19 clinic opened at Byron Central Hospital last week and Cr Richardson has urged the community to take advantage of it.
"I think global evidence shows that countries that test the most respond the best," he said.
He said he'd implore "anyone that thinks they might even have a minor symptom" to get tested.
Testing is free and backpackers in particular who have any concerns have been urged to visit the clinic.
Hopes beaches will remain open
Cr Richardson said he wanted to see Byron's beaches remain open.
To achieve that, anyone who goes there for exercise should do their thing and leave, to allow others to share the space safely.
But enough people not doing the right thing could jeopardise everyone's right to enjoy the surf.
"I want to keep the beaches open," Cr Richardson said.
"That's my position."
Byron Shire Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service have already closed numerous beach carparks to help prevent crowding.
Beaches on the Central Coast and some popular Gold Coast beaches have been closed.
A whole-of-community responsibility
IF you see a breach of the public health orders, you should contact police.
But Cr Richardson stressed some who are "fixated on what everyone else is doing" should "spend some time thinking from another person's perspective".
Important to note is that you're permitted to be outside for exercise, medical appointments etc with more than one other person if you're from the same household.
Those not taking concerns about the virus seriously should meanwhile consider a vulnerable person's point of view, Cr Richardson said.
"If both edges of the community did that we might find we're a bit gentler with each other and we might start working together more effectively," he said.
"We need to keep being kind to each other.
"We need to look after each other. That also means being responsible."