Doors open on regional trips after COVID lockdown

Regional travel in NSW allowed, with some trepidation

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Angullong vineyard's Heidi and Ben Crossing are delighted that the ban on regional travel is being lifted that will bring more customers to the cellar door at Millthorpe near Orange.

Angullong vineyard's Heidi and Ben Crossing are delighted that the ban on regional travel is being lifted that will bring more customers to the cellar door at Millthorpe near Orange.

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Regional businesses get ready for influx with precautions

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Ben Crossing is a fifth generation farmer and knows too well about the vagaries of the seasons.

Now running a leading small vineyard, Angullong, just outside Orange, he had some irrigation at hand to help his vineyard through the drought for this year's vintage, but grape production was down 40 per cent.

And then the COVID-19 crisis with its lockdowns hit, hurting cellar door sales, but offering some new opportunities online.

Like many small regional businesses, he is looking forward to the re-opening of regional travel from June 1, that will hopefully bring more customers to the cellar door.

He and his wife Heidi say that with some trepidation. They are aware that strict social distancing controls must be followed and a requirement to record customers and where they come from. It will be the same for all other businesses in regional NSW.

And booking ahead is essential, as has been advised for all holidaymakers visiting regional areas - an important part of the reopening of the restrictions.

To visit Angullong's cellar door at Millthorpe you will have to book and there won't be any stand up tastings, only table service. The Crossings are hoping it will be a new horizon for their business, and they've already been taking many inquiries over the phone in the last few weeks.

The Angullong vineyard provides grapes to other wineries. Cellar door sales are just part of what the Crossings do, but for many small wineries they are critical.

"People will have to pre-book and we will have to take details and where they are from," Mr Crossing said. They have been advised by Australian Wine and Grape and the NSW Wine Industry Association on how they should conduct a safe cellar door experience.

"There is a bit of apprehension. We don't want to get inundated, especially with the June long weekend not far away. We are relatively positive about it and just hope people take it easy."

Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the reopening of regional travel was vital for some businesses in Tamworth trying to survive the coronavirus crisis.

"We have seen some close, but I think the lifting of these regional travel restrictions was make or break for many," he said. "We are keen to get our economy up and running. There's been a lot of pressure from hospitality and tourism-related business to reopen."

He applauded the handling of the crisis by the federal and NSW Governments..He said the decision by Queensland to keep its border shut would "hurt Queensland more than NSW". Tamworth residents had handled the crisis well and were always willing to tackle COVID-19, and also willing to be available for COVID-19 tests.

The residents had also warmly welcomed the Auckland Warriors team to train in Tamworth under strict social distancing protocols, helping the NRL get back on its feet this weekend. Tamworth had shown it could take on such a responsibility.

The council's budget though had been hit hard by the lockdown, including from the suspension of flights at Tamworth airport.

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