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Queensland police say the online border declaration pass is malfunctioning for some border zone residents attempting to enter the state.
It comes just hours after Queensland eased border restrictions to allow residents in areas of northern New South Wales to enter the state without undergoing quarantine.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler confirmed locals in some of the newly added northern New South Wales areas were not being recognised by the system.
He said the glitch was due to an overload of information in the system and was impacting up to seven suburbs.
“Unfortunately there’s been a couple of IT issues around some suburbs, the relevant government department is working through that now as we speak,” Chief Superintendent Wheeler said.
“It’s been a mammoth task by housing and public works.
“All Queensland postcodes for the entire state have had to be loaded into the system so understandably there’s a lot of stress on the system but they’re working through it.”
Police said Queensland residents intending on travelling within the New South Wales border zone and re-entering Queensland, would need to apply for the updated X pass, also known as “Border Zone Resident Declaration Pass”.
Chief Superintendent Wheeler said efforts were being made to fix the glitch.
Police said anyone affected could show proof of their address at the border and would be able to apply for a pass in person.
‘It should have been ironed out’
Ballina Councillor Eoin Johnston was booked in for a surgical procedure at a Gold Coast hospital but the glitch in the online system told him his address was outside the border zone.
He drove to the border not knowing if he would get to his appointment.
“I got up early, before 5:00am. I was on the computer, I went through the procedure, I went through the standard border pass which is open to people in the bubble and I’m in the bubble.
“That was rejected with the recommendation that I go for the health pass.
“I went to the health pass, I got right to the bottom of that and was told to go back and do the standard pass.
“The standard pass did not work because the town that I live in was not acceptable.
“I found out at the border when I did it manually that the village very close to Alstonville where I live, which is called Rous Mill, would have been acceptable.
“So it was just a computer glitch, it should have been ironed out.
“Some people it will cause them a lot of concern.”
Long delays expected
Commuters heading into Queensland were experiencing congestion this morning, with expanded border bubble residents queuing to get into the state from 1:00am.
Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said people were lined up on the M1 before 1:00am when the border bubble officially expanded to include another 41 postcodes.
“These were obviously people who were coming from the expanded border zone,” he said.
“We’ve seen quite a lot of congestion this morning, peak delays of up to 30 minutes.”
It comes as police reinforcements were called in to cope with the delays.
Roughly 152,000 people who live in those areas can now “freely” pop across the border for a break.
Travellers will still need a border pass to get into the Sunshine State and a lot of patience after the withdrawal of Australian Defence Force personnel who had been helping with border checks.
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan pleaded for families to remain tolerant and calm as police check each car one by one.
“You can have a hundred police on the border and it won’t necessarily speed things up,” he said.
“Because what we do is get the traffic flow down to one lane.
“So there is a certain capacity of cars you can process at any one time.
“The thing that causes the delays is the volume of traffic coming through and as the border bubble expands there will be more and more people.”
He said there was good reason for people to be patient as “patience is keeping COVID out of Queensland”.
Anyone from Northern NSW who has not been to a COVID-19 hot spot in the last 14 days can enter without going into quarantine.
Can Queenslanders head to NSW and get back in easily?
If Byron Bay has been on your holiday wish list since the pandemic began, you can now head south without any hassles.
Five more council areas have been added to the border bubble including;
- Byron Shire
- Ballina Shire
- City of Lismore
- Richmond Valley Council
- Glen Innes Shire
- Plus the following border postcodes: 2880, 2840, 2839, 2838, 2834, 2833, 2406, 2405, 2409, 2410, 2361, 2372, 2476, 2474, 2484, 2489, 2488, 2484, 2486
The rest of NSW is still listed as a hot spot.
Queenslanders also need to fill out a Border Declaration Pass to get back home.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was a good day for local economies on both sides of the border.
She hoped the long delays would be “smoothed out” soon and “we will see freer movement of people”.
How sewerage testing helped open border
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said Northern NSW had been spared an outbreak for many weeks.
But authorities been vigilantly keeping an eye on what’s been flushed down toilets in a bid to track the virus.
“We know that one person in 10,000 in the community can be picked up through sewerage testing, so it is very sensitive,” she said.
“Tests along the border have not found any trace since a Byron Bay outbreak [more than a month ago] so there is no virus in sewerage there.
“So there are a whole lot of reasons we can now safely open up to Northern NSW.”
Jail threat for those who breach border rules
Police Minister Mark Ryan warned there were big fines and a six-month jail term for anyone caught lying on their border declaration.
The biggest fear he said was people lying about being in hot spots.
“We do a lot of intelligence gathering of people coming through to make sure that the right cars are coming through with the right people in them,” he said.
“There is also follow up activity too, so if people think they can lie on a border pass and get away with it that is not the case.”
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said there was also a growing number of people “dobbing” in others in for doing the wrong thing.
A boost for tourism
Tourism operators have been slowly clawing back the millions of dollars lost during the pandemic with Queensland’s “Good to Go” campaign.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said today’s border opening was an important part of the COVID-19 recovery.
“We do know from major online distributors and travel agencies online, they have reported spikes in increases in destinations from NSW people,” he said.
“Inquiries have doubled or even trebled for some places around Queensland, so that expresses the mood of consumers that they are really ready to travel again.
“And it is a good reminder that the Sunshine State is open for business.”
He said with the good work authorities from both states had both done to control the virus outbreak and the robust measures now in place to track any possible infections, it was time to open to the Queensland border to all of New South Wales “without further delay”.
A review of border restrictions is conducted at the end of every month.