ON TAP: The Northern Territory is officially one of the safest places from coronavirus in the world and patrons at the Darwin Hotel in Darwin celebrated on Friday, May 15, 2020 when the Northern Territory lifted a range of restrictions. (AAP Image/Helen Orr)
ON TAP: The Northern Territory is officially one of the safest places from coronavirus in the world and patrons at the Darwin Hotel in Darwin celebrated on Friday, May 15, 2020 when the Northern Territory lifted a range of restrictions. (AAP Image/Helen Orr)

Why we should relax restrictions for regions in NSW

IN AN ideal world, we'd all be able to pop down to Yamba Shores Tavern tonight, pick a sitting area of our choosing, grab a table of eight for the whole extended family, raise a glass and say 'cheers'.

After all, none of us have coronavirus, right? Or at least, there's as much chance of some other deadly infectious disease or heart attack or tragic accident putting a dampener on our night.

But, despite no new cases in the Clarence Valley for more than a month, we must continue to abide by the same social distancing restrictions as the rest of the state.

It's a rigid system. But in reality it would be a logistical nightmare to put forward any alternative, and it's a system that so far has worked and made us the envy of the new world.

But I do hope the premier is looking seriously at options beyond the one size fits all model, particularly for regional areas where there are zero cases and the risk of community transmission is by definition much lower, in line with population density.

Yesterday the NT News gloated 'Screw you we're havin' a brew' as it highlighted the top-end's decision to open the pub doors to one and all - "without a stupid 10-person rule".

Front page of the NT News on Friday.
Front page of the NT News on Friday.

From where they sit, that's a pretty safe call, and while I don't necessarily think the Clarence Valley should suddenly become a free for all, a separate view for regional areas should be considered as part of the overall plan.

Parts of regional Queensland have been granted a 20-person rule, and certainly starting with more isolated parts of western NSW, this should be considered an option.

Rural areas of NSW are being penalised simply for being part of the most populous state, subject to the same rules despite vastly different demographics to the cities where COVID-19 outbreaks are concentrated.

When quizzed on ABC's Q&A about the possibility of lifting restrictions in the regions, Ms Berejiklian unconsciously framed her response from a city-centric perspective, and entertained the idea of promoting visitation to regional areas from the cities.

Yes, economically that's where we want to get to, and wouldn't it be nice for Sydney-siders to breathe again, but it's not all about that. First and foremost we want some sort of normality for our own communities in the regions.

It's also about lifestyle and freedom - and local businesses being able to help each other get the wheel moving, irrespective of the situation in external markets.

For instance, granting temporary additional easing of restrictions within council areas that have zero active cases - on a condition of being brought back to the status quo as soon as a new case is confirmed - could be a good place to start.

But because it has no effect on the city majority, it doesn't seem to even enter the thought process.

Don't get me wrong - Ms Berejiklian has done a great job handling this crisis - and the bushfire crisis before that. But her shortfall is, like about five million other people, she is blinkered by this seemingly inpenetrable sandstone curtain.

We must rely on folks like The Nationals to point out the bleeding obvious from a regional perspective. Problem is they're too busy playing political games to let Deputy Premier John Barilaro do his job properly.

If only we'd gone down the path The Daily Examiner founder Clark Irving advocated in the 1850s - to form a new state in the north of NSW - we'd be in a position to break away with the likes of NT and make our own decisions.



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