Border wait slashed amid push to relocate checkpoint

 

POLICE have slashed border checkpoint waits on the southern Gold Coast from two hours to 45 minutes as the Queensland Premier mounts a renewed push to relocate the blockades.

After patience-sapping queues lasting several hours for motorists at the Tweed-Coolangatta border choke point last week, Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler on Sunday noted it was now down to 45 minutes at peak times during the weekend.

Members of the Australian Army assist Queensland police at the Miles St checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick.
Members of the Australian Army assist Queensland police at the Miles St checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick.

It comes after a modified border declaration pass with a giant expiration date for windscreens allowed police to quickly determine if a car and its occupants could continue into Queensland or be pulled aside for questioning. About 60 Australian Defence Force personnel were also deployed to all five border checkpoints on Sunday.

In further developments on the controversial Queensland border blockades - aimed at weeding out anyone trying to come in from Victoria or NSW hot spots - but which split the Tweed-Coolangatta communities in two and infuriated residents on both sides, it can be revealed:

- Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she'll write to her NSW counterpart to again request border checkpoints be moved south along the Tweed River;

- Victoria recorded 363 new cases of coronavirus with the total number at 5695. Three new deaths have been reported since Saturday, two men in their 90s and a woman in her 90s;

- NSW recorded 18 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing their total since the pandemic started to 3379.

- Queensland again recorded no new cases, with just two active in the state.

Australian Defence Force personnel assist Queensland police at the Miles St checkpoint. Picture: SCOTT POWICK.
Australian Defence Force personnel assist Queensland police at the Miles St checkpoint. Picture: SCOTT POWICK.

Chief Supt Wheeler said ADF personnel would help police question intercepted drivers to keep traffic moving quicker.

Supt Wheeler said when traffic was at its peak at midday on Saturday it took drivers 45 minutes to cross the main border on the M1.

He said at the other checkpoints it was taking drivers about five minutes.

"There's still an element of random inspection because we want to make sure people aren't lying as well," Supt Wheeler said.

"We pulled a guy off a bus the other day at Griffith St from a NSW hotspot and refused him entry. He got on another bus, filled out a declaration form, and we caught him trying to come into Queensland again. He was fined $4004."

Australian Defence Force personnel assist Queensland police at the Griffith St checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick.
Australian Defence Force personnel assist Queensland police at the Griffith St checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick.

Supt Wheeler pleaded with cross-border residents to update their border pass every seven days to help keep traffic flowing.

He hoped by this week there would be an email alert to remind residents when they had to renew their pass.

A 700m border wall was erected at Dixon St in Coolangatta on Thursday to stop drivers illegally entering Queensland - it involved filling plastic barriers with water.

Supt Wheeler said the move came after reports of people "driving dangerously" across the grass verge to dodge border checkpoints.

He said the barrier would be patrolled regularly by police and as of Tuesday there will be an entry point for emergency services.

Ms Palaszczuk said she would write to her NSW counterpart to again request border checkpoints be moved south along the Tweed River.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would write to her NSW counterpart to again request border checkpoints be moved south along the Tweed River. Picture: TARA CROSER.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would write to her NSW counterpart to again request border checkpoints be moved south along the Tweed River. Picture: TARA CROSER.

Ms Palaszczuk said she had been working on the letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the weekend on a plan the Queensland Government believed would relieve traffic chaos for border communities.

"We have previously requested at an operational level if it could be moved to the Tweed River," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"That is purely a matter now for the NSW Premier. I'm not going to comment on it any further until I've been able to send that letter and have a discussion with her."

Last week, the pair bickered over whether or not Ms Palaszczuk had raised it earlier in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk was not impressed with footage showing people jumping over barriers erected along the border to stop people illegally entering, saying: "It's not on".

"I mean this is a safety issue for Queensland and I just stress to everyone, please do the right thing," she said.

She said police would not hesitate to fine people.

The Premier said Queensland had no community transmission since early May, but could not relax.

"There's no time for complacency. We are still in the midst of a pandemic," she said.

Originally published as Border wait slashed amid push to relocate checkpoint


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