September 14, 2020
The Cherbourg and South Burnett mayors joined forces on Monday morning to urge caution before any easing of Queensland’s COVID-19 border restrictions.
Mayor Elvie Sandow and Mayor Brett Otto called a media conference outside the Council Chambers in Cherbourg to express their concerns.
Mayor Otto emphasised they were not trying to politicise the border closures but wanted to achieve the best result for the local community.
“As local mayors we are here today to share our concerns as to the potential impact on our communities of any significant easing of border restrictions,” Mayor Otto said.
His concerns were for the health of local residents – especially the elderly – but also the local economy as Kingaroy was home to Swickers, Australia’s largest pork-producing plant.
He said Queensland could not afford to have one case of COVID-19 threaten the pork industry.
“Other States have seen beef processing plants close down and people put under enormous strain economically and mentally,” he said.
He said any processing interruption at Swickers could see hundreds of job losses and grain farmers hit again after decades of drought.
Both mayors said they wanted to avoid the re-introduction of the checkpoint on the Cherbourg Road “at all costs”.
“I am acutely aware that if we did have to bring in army and police (again) to monitor permits and town borders around Cherbourg, the physical and mental health (effects) to these people could be catastrophic,” Mayor Otto said.
Mayor Sandow said Cherbourg’s main priority was to keep the community safe.
“We support the Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to keep the borders closed to keep our community safe,” Mayor Sandow said.
She said the border checkpoint earlier this year had brought back bad memories for residents who could recall the old days of having to get permits to leave Cherbourg.
“It was very, very challenging for our Elders,” she said.
She was very passionate about keeping the Cherbourg community safe.
“It only takes one case and that could probably wipe our community out because of our health issues,” Mayor Sandow said.
“You can’t replace lives, but the economy can pick up.”
Mayor Otto said it could disastrous for regional communities if the borders were re-opened and a COVID-19 case came from interstate.
“Our message is that we would like to see Queenslanders support the government authorities, support the government of the day, support the scientific advice that is coming from the Chief Health Officer and work with us to keep our communities safe,” he said
“We are concerned that public pressure … could cause the government to have to release the restrictions on the borders.
“And that’s very worrying for us mayors out here in terms of safety for our local communities.”