Driver’s bizarre attempt to run the border blockade
POTENTIAL coronavirus-carrying motorists can still cruise into Queensland and the Gold Coast despite a border checkpoint aimed at blocking cases from NSW crossing over.
All roads from Tweed Heads into Coolangatta were to have been closed or manned by police checkpoints from midnight Wednesday under a border lockdown announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Twitter earlier this week.
But traffic was flowing freely through the "twin towns" yesterday after authorities backflipped on plans to completely seal off the border with exceptions for workers, medical trips, school runs, freight, court and compassionate grounds.
Police checkpoints were in place on the M1 at Tugun and the Gold Coast Highway at Bilinga near Gold Coast Airport but the road through Tweed Heads into Coolangatta, and surrounding backstreets, were open as normal.
Gold Coast police chief superintendent Mark Wheeler said police had "revisited" plans to block Griffith St at Coolangatta and close the backstreets leading into Tweed Heads.
"Coolangatta and the Tweed is an interesting dynamic," Supt Wheeler said. "It's essentially a village - people there, their daily lives, are interwoven across that border.
"We revisited our plans."
Traffic was backed up heavily on the NSW side of the border as police stopped cars. The giant line began in darkness in the early hours of the morning and only grew as the sun came up.
Amid the traffic was an elderly couple, with the driver - an older man - having note taped to the window of his cars to communicate with police.
"Good morning (we are) attending John Flynn Hospital for cancer treatment. She has compromised immune system … thank you," the note said.
Chief Supt. Wheeler warned motorists traffic could be delayed for hours and the operation would continue for "months, not weeks".
He said cars crossing the border would be shepherded into an area and be questioned by police.
"There will be significant delays when we see traffic building up," he said.
"The border restrictions we have in place are going to cause pain to the community in terms of having to wait … and being delayed. Plan ahead and be prepared for a lot of inconvenience."
He said if police established motorists were entering Queensland for essential purposes they would be moved on quickly.
Just over 12 hours after the new controls came into effect, a man was taken into custody at the border after allegedly approached the border in a stolen ute with fake paper number plates.
Police had a warrant for the man's arrest and while searching the utility allegedly found amounts of money, drugs and a gel blaster gun.
Senior Gold Coast-based LNP frontbencher Ros Bates slammed the partial closure as a "farce", saying police had reported motorists "pouring" over the border in the hinterland.
"It was completely and absolutely botched," she said.
Ms Bates said there had been "panic, chaos and confusion", with text messages to Queenslanders living near the border but not NSW residents.
"The borders need to be closed to contain the virus but what needed to have happened was a clear plan from Palaszczuk and the Labor Government," she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said Tweed Heads and Coolangatta were "intertwined … and we don't want to have a huge impact on those local communities".
A spokesman Ms Palaszczuk stressed the border closure was not designed to impact border communities, but halt the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
"We are trying to stop the spread of the virus," he said.
"The Premier has said these measures are not aimed at border communities going about their normal lives although everyone everywhere should be limiting their travel.
Originally published as Driver's bizarre attempt to run the border blockade