$20m-a-day black hole as borders open a little more


It was a new chapter but the same old story as Queensland's border blockade yesterday came down for more than three million NSW residents.

From 1am, all residents of NSW outside Greater Sydney were allowed to enter Queensland for the first time since July.

But with the state's biggest tourism markets of Sydney and Victoria still off-limits, business owners have been left lamenting the gaping hole in the economy caused by the border barriers and COVID-19 restrictions hampering trade.

Sydneysiders and Victorians inject about $20 million a day into the Queensland economy, while limits on patrons at pubs, clubs, restaurants and movie theatres have led to fears that up to a quarter of Queensland businesses will not survive the pandemic.

In a rare piece of heartening news for Queensland businesses, cars were already queuing at the border ahead of the 1am change in restrictions, with thousands of travellers flocking into Queensland yesterday.

Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said yesterday's traffic flows saw delays of up to an hour at border checkpoints, but that was in line with expectations.

Twenty-seven vehicles were turned around at the border's road checkpoints on the Gold Coast.

Chief Superintendent Wheeler said traffic was manageable at border crossings on the first day of the 17th incarnation of border passes, with the real test to come in the future.

"Today's traffic really did cope pretty well," he said.


Waitress Sarah Francis at Coolangatta Surf Club. Picture: Adam Head
Waitress Sarah Francis at Coolangatta Surf Club. Picture: Adam Head


"(But) people have only had a couple of days to react to the changes and to plan travel.

"The true test will be in the days and weeks ahead."

On the border, Coolangatta Surf Club general manager Steve Edgar said yesterday's sold-out Melbourne Cup function was 30 to 40 per cent down on pre-COVID years.

"The easing of border restrictions is definitely a step in the right direction, but it's like pouring a bucket of water into a test tube," he said.

"We've got all this demand that we just can't fill.

"You can have 30,000 people at a football grand final but we can't have 300 people for a Melbourne Cup function.

"There needs to be a balance."

The Gold Coast's southernmost city councillor, Gail O'Neill, said continued uncertainty over borders was killing the region.

"The uncertainty and the delays at the border have made it really tough (down here)," she said.

"People aren't booking holidays because they don't know what the rules are going to be and the businesses in the twin towns that rely on customers from across the border are struggling because people aren't willing to sit in traffic jams to come and visit them."






Originally published as $20m-a-day black hole as borders open a little more