Tighter NSW/Victorian border restrictions introduced by the NSW government last week have led to frustration from farmers and shearers alike.
Currently, eligible critical service workers employed or living in a non-border region must enter NSW by flying to Sydney Airport even if they travelling a relatively short distance between two rural properties.
Jason and Cathryn Singe, Yeramba Pastoral Company, have a property in Henty in NSW, where they live, and another property 100km away at Tallangatta, Victoria.
Tallangatta falls within the border zone but Henty does not, therefore if they went to check on their cows at Tallangatta, which have just started calving, they would need to return home via Sydney Airport.
"Normally I'm a pretty placid sort of bloke but it's wearing really thin," Mr Singe said.
"I've got a permit sitting on the dining room table at the moment but if I used it I would have to drive down to Tallangatta, check my stock, drive to Melbourne airport, leave my ute somewhere in Melbourne, quarantine for two weeks in Sydney and then find my way back here.
"I think that would be about a $5000 process."
The process could put Mr Singe at more risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 than if he left his property in Henty, drove to the farm and returned without coming into contact with anyone.
"I would be happy to self-isolate at home when I returned and keep a log-book showing where I had been," he said.
Mr Singe had a neighbour check on their 110 Santa Angus cows and heifers at Tallangatta and heard there were already four to five calves on the ground.
"I've also got heifers entered in a sale in two weeks and I don't know if I can get down to load them and I don't even know how much feed they have," he said.
Mrs Singe said Service NSW had told her to lodge an appeal but after being passed up three levels of administration she was told there actually was no appeal process.
She has also been in touch with their local member, Dr Joe McGirr and the NSW agricultural minister's office.
Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said he had been contacted by many farmers in the same situation and had raised the issue with both the Agricultural Minister, Adam Marshall and the Health Minister, Brad Hazzard.
"I will keep pushing for a solution, which I think with the right precautions should be possible," Dr McGirr said.
Shearing teams given a small window to move in
Tim Burke, T and D Contract Shearing, Tocumwal, said the tighter restrictions meant he could no longer get permits for his Victorian shearers living outside the border zone to cross the Murray.
"In order for them to continue working in NSW they would need to stay on this side of the border, away from their families," he said.
Mr Burke said they were about to enter a busy period and as much as 70 per cent of their work was in NSW, the majority not within the outlined border zone.
"My Victorian staff, they're only 50 to 60 kilometres away from where we're working at the moment and they still can't get over the border to do it. That's the hard bit," he said.
"I'm trying to find them work with other contractors in Victoria to keep them going through the pandemic, but there's certainly more sheep in NSW."
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