Queensland, get ready for a southern stampede.
Travellers are massing at the borders, champing at the bit to enjoy some warmer winter weather.
From midday today, the dusty welcome mat is back out for our interstate friends, after 15 long weeks of self-imposed quarantine.
Well, almost everyone. Sorry Victoria.
If you are from the Garden State or from interstate who travelled to Victoria in the past fortnight — unless you have a rare exemption — you’ll be turned around.
Simple as that.
So who can come?
Anyone from NSW, WA, SA, Tasmania, the ACT and NT — unless you have been in Victoria in the past 14 days.
You must complete a Queensland border declaration form — that goes for every single person in the vehicle, including children.
The form lasts seven days, so if you are staying longer, you need to renew it online.
You must provide any necessary documentation to prove you have not been in Victoria over the past 14 days.
You must agree to get tested if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms and you will receive SMS reminders. There will be extra pop-up clinics at strategic locations across the state.
Queenslanders, take note:
You also need a signed border declaration pass to cross the border.
If you’ve been to Victoria in the past 14 days, you will still be allowed in, but you’ll have to go into mandatory quarantine at your own expense.
It’s a welcome that comes with a stern warning.
Anyone caught lying, get ready to cough up a fine of $4,004 or a court-imposed penalty of up to $13,345.
If I’m entering by road:
If you’re coming by road, a word of advice: plan ahead, display your border pass in the vehicle, expect lengthy delays and pack a suitcase full of patience.
Because as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk repeatedly warned this week, there will be delays.
“I said that yesterday and I’ll say again today, there will be delays at our borders, because we are going to get this right,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“I’m telling the public now, there will be lengthy delays.”
Adding to the traffic congestion, this weekend marks the end of school holidays in Queensland, so many more families will be returning home for the start of term three.
Did we mention delays?
Queensland police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said 238,000 border declaration passes had been filled out.
Given they only last seven days, it is easy to see why there will be pressure on the system.
“That indicates to us that over 238,000 are intending to come to Queensland in the next week,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“That will mean that we will see congestion and delays, so please be patient with us and we’ll work through it.
“We can only process so many vehicles and so many people at any given time.”
The Tweed border will be the most heavily congested, so here are the checkpoints:
Police controlled vehicle checkpoints:
- Griffith Street and Stuart Street
- Gold Coast Highway and Coolangatta Road
- M1 northbound at Stewarts Road
- Nerang Murwillumbah Road, Natural Bridge will have a QPS controlled border pass system between 7:00am to 7:00pm each day and 24-hour access to emergency vehicles
- Miles Street will be restricted access to local border residents only
- Boundary Street and Clarke Street
- Dixon Street and Bay Street
- Dixon Street and Florence Street
- Leeward Terrace and Tooloon Street
- Kent Street near Murraba Crescent
- Tomewin Mountain Road, Currumbin Valley
What if I’m coming by air?
You also need to fill out a border declaration pass.
And if you’re refused permission to enter Queensland, you’ll have to wait at the airport for the next flight back to your home state or be quarantined until you leave.
“We have hotels right across the state, bearing in mind that we have airports that are reopening,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“Each airport within regional Queensland is receiving flights and we don’t just look at flights out of Victoria, we look at transit flights as well.”
If you arrive at a Queensland airport from interstate before midday today, you will not be allowed to leave the airport.
Queensland Health was working with airlines to delay some flights while other passengers will be accommodated in a holding area until they are cleared.
Passengers travelling with exemptions will be able to be processed as normal.
What about exemptions?
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young receives hundreds of requests for exemption, but very few are granted.
Here are some exceptions regarding Victoria:
- Essential health workers
- People travelling on health, legal or compassionate grounds (attending funerals is not exempt, but visiting a dying relative is)
- Truck drivers carrying freight, but they must renew their border pass every seven days
Where are all the travellers heading?
With an embarrassment of riches across the state’s big backyard, interstate travellers will not only swamp Queensland’s south-east, but are expected to go further afield.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) chief executive Daniel Gschwind said caravan parks just across the inland border were full of “grey nomads” waiting to resume their annual migration.
“They’re an important part of the outback economy [for] many towns from Barcaldine, Longreach, Winton, all the way to Mount Isa,” Mr Gschwind said.
Towns like Bourke and Lightning Ridge in western New South Wales had also been overwhelmed with travellers heading north to the Sunshine State.
Michael Dear and his family are among them. They are from Victoria but have been travelling in New South Wales for the past five weeks.
He said he was worried he could get refused entry at the border because of his Victorian number plate.
“I have no problem with them pulling me aside … we have all our receipts from all our accommodation,” he said.
“[But] if they are knocking people back saying, ‘Victorian number plate, no,’ … there’s going to be a nightmare.”
Others are expected to take advantage of airfare deals further north to The Whitsundays and Cairns.
The state’s tourism industry, which usually reaps $1.5 billion every month through the domestic market, is desperately hoping to claw back some revenue.
“Those billions of dollars that are missing, they’re missing out of tens of thousands of business tills and they’re missing out of the pay packets of hundreds of thousands of staff, whose jobs and futures have been put at risk over the last few months,” Mr Gschwind said.
“With tourism activity returning and communities seeing the visitors come back, that translates into a future being recreated for all those people.”
The loss of the Victorian market, which the QTIC said was usually worth 30 per cent of the interstate market at this time of year, is huge.
But with everyone else welcome back, it’s a start.