Permit confusion as Moulamein remains off border zone

TOUGH new border controls are inflicting unnecessary stress on cross-border residents, says farmer and business owner Joanna Hulland.

Owner and operator of Advance Turf Swan Hill, Ms Hulland owns property on both sides of the Murray River and employs people from NSW and Victoria to work on her agriculture enterprise.

"I currently operate under three permits," Ms Hulland told The Guardian.

"Critical services only allows me to go to Swan Hill for work but I cannot buy food or fuel under that permit. I need a remote communities permit to be able to obtain supplies.

"But a remote communities permit only allows me to go to Swan Hill. We're sheep and cereal farmers in the Mallee meaning we need permits to go outside of the border bubble further than Swan Hill."

To make things more challenging, Ms Hulland employs people from NSW and Victoria to work on her turf farm just outside of Swan Hill on the NSW side.

"As an employer, it is very difficult to keep up with the changing of the rules," she said.

"Every three or four days they changed the permits and that meant we continually had to check if our staff were legally allowed to come to work.

"The likes of our situation is that we've got staff who live in Moulamein and in Swan Hill. To be able to legally get them to work has been awkward.

"If they were to check the sheep in Victoria, they were not allowed to buy food or supplies so consequently they have stopped going into Victoria."

Ms Hulland said the implementation and management of cross-border permits had been very "reactive" inflicting a lot of unnecessary stress on border residents.

"The issue has been the bureaucrats in Sydney do not understand how people along the Murray operate," she said.

"Our NSW rule makers have no concept of how isolated our end of the state is.

"For people living on the NSW side of Swan Hill, we don't have any substantial shopping centres for at least 150 kilometres. It's all been very reactive.

"We are the forgotten minority being punished for COVID-19 outbreaks three plus hours away in Melbourne. We are your farmers growing the food you eat."

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said the requirement for NSW residents to self-isolate when they return from Victorian communities outside the border zone is hammering the workforce of our hospitals.

"Border closures have also hamstrung the movement of the seasonal labour workforce and our farmers' ability to get their produce harvested on time," he said.

Meanwhile, in addition to the current permit uses — for work, education or to obtain medical care or supplies — you can now apply for a permit if you need to provide or receive care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including personal care, mental health, domestic violence services or services for crime victims.

If you need to travel to provide or receive care or assistance to a vulnerable person, you will need to apply for an updated permit.