NSW/VIC Border finally opens

The first moments of NSW-Victoria border reopening

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The first moments of NSW-Victoria border reopening

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There was shared jubilation in the first moments of the NSW-Victoria border reopening, just as the Border community has felt the pain of its closure collectively.

Sirens sounded at 12.01am and the handful of NSW Police members still at the checkpoint stepped off Wodonga Place, allowing free passage into the state.

Close to 100 cars crossed within the first 10 minutes, carrying people from Albury-Wodonga - enjoying the novelty of the historic moment - and beyond.

Many had been earlier waiting on the side of the Lincoln Causeway, for the midnight opening to occur.

They included Ballarat resident Craig Latta and his son Nathan, who were eager to escape restrictions in the southern state, if only for a short period.

"I've really struggled with the mask thing," Mr Latta said.

"At the end of the day, it's there for good reasons, but my health doesn't do too well - I can only get halfway around the supermarket before I struggle. And if you haven't got one on, you're looked at.

"Governments are overreaching into people's freedoms a bit, we can't make any decisions for ourselves."

Mr Latta drove to Wodonga today but accounts from Wodonga moteliers of people booking to cross was proven true with about 20 cars waiting to get into NSW.

"I think most people will probably cross tomorrow, you've got to be a bit of a nut to come out at this time of night in the rain," the appliance repairman laughed.

The late hour and intermittent rain also did not stop a crowd of onlookers gathering at Wodonga Place, enjoying tunes of Steve Bowen who counted down to midnight.

"I think the police enjoyed the atmosphere," Albury's favourite DJ said.

Ellen Hines, a Melbourne resident originally from Albury, was among the drivers crossing and said she was looking forward to catching up with friends and family.

The final group of policemen at the Albury checkpoint were from Sydney and the Blue Mountains and one was on his fifth deployment to the operation.

The happiness was clear on the face of Murray River Police Superintendent Paul Smith with such a large-scale operation coming to an end.

Assistant Commissioner Scott Whyte, who had been in Albury earlier on Sunday for the Premier's visit, said there had not been an increase in people attempting to cross without the right approvals leading up to the border opening.

"I can say it's been a massive police operation, I'm enormously proud of all the police officers that have performed duty over the 20 weeks," he said.

"It was a fairly large operation with only 36 to 48 hours' planning.

"The community support has been enormous.

"We've achieved, I think what we've set out to, to keep NSW safe through a very difficult time in this health crisis."

But the purpose and benefits of the border closure were questioned by Northern Victoria MP Tim Quilty.

"This has been the first time I've been able to cross; going up and down to Melbourne, I haven't been able to get a permit," he said.

"I'm very pleased to be here and obviously, a bunch of others were too.

"The whole thing was a waste of time, a big waste of money.

"It was a massive disruption, economically it's cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It's been really hard on everybody.

"Regional Victoria never really had it [COVID-19] - our communities didn't need to be divided like this."

Mr Quilty believed many of those crossing "would not be coming back" to Victoria.

Regardless, the Wodonga-based Liberal Democrats MP was joyful and summed up his feelings about the sight of Wodonga Place free of dividers and police succinctly.

"It's excellent. Bloody good," he said.

The story NSW/VIC Border finally opens first appeared on The Border Mail.

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