Victoria-NSW border community residents’ five-minute commute turns into 80-minute detour

Farmers and business owners in south-west New South Wales are furious traffic is being diverted away from a Murray River crossing, forcing employees who live in Victoria to take lengthy detours to get to work.

NSW Police are diverting traffic away from smaller bridges to major crossings, such as the George Chaffey Bridge at Buronga and the Swan Hill bridge, to concentrate their resources as the hard border with Victoria takes effect.

Citrus producer Leon Caccaviello said he found out the Tooleybuc bridge, part of the Mallee Highway, was going to close by email just after 6:00pm on Tuesday night.

While he said police at the border were “being very good” and allowing locals to leave NSW across the bridge on the first day of the hard border, the closure has caused headaches for those who lived on the other side.

“Technically, with my staff who are in Victoria, it would [normally] be a five-minute trip over the river. Some of those guys are driving into Swan Hill, over to Murray Downs and then back out to Tooleybuc which is about an hour and 20-minute trip,” Mr Caccaviello said.

A woman in a blue shirt holding a hat standing in front of some sheep.
Member for Murray, Helen Dalton, says communities are worried about not being able to use their bridges.(Supplied:)

MP fields complaints

The Abbotsford Bridge at Yelta, near Wentworth, is only accessible to emergency vehicles, as are bridges at Nyah, Gonn and Barmah.

Helen Dalton, State Member for Murray, said residents of those small towns were “understandably upset about what’s happened”.

“[There are lots of concerns from] constituents with women having babies and kids that need to access health services, such as those who suffer from epilepsy, cancer patients … people are very, very worried,” she said.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said the border operation was constantly being assessed “with a view to being flexible with our resources on the ground”.

“This includes consideration being given to the location of vehicle checkpoints and hard closures as the operation progresses.”

Mr Caccaviello said he understood the need for police to manage resources, he said “there’s got to be a little bit of understanding” about the needs of cross-border industries.

“With load restrictions that are on the Swan Hill bridge, [heavy vehicles] either have to go all the way to Barham or over to Robinvale-Euston, so I don’t know who in their right mind said to shut Tooleybuc down when there is such a huge distance between those bridges.”

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