The South Burnett Regional Council and Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council mayors have united in support of the premiers border closure. Photo/Cherbourg Council.
The South Burnett Regional Council and Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council mayors have united in support of the premiers border closure. Photo/Cherbourg Council.

Councils back border closure over ‘catastrophic’ COVID risk

THE South Burnett Regional Council and Cherbourg Council have united in support of the Palaszczuk Government and pleaded for border restrictions to stay in place, saying the consequences of a second outbreak in the region would be devastating.

South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto said he is extremely concerned about the pressure being placed on the Premier and the Chief Health Officer to loosen their border policy. He said we must stand behind our leaders to avoid lockdowns and protect our vulnerable first nations peoples and our local industries.

“My concerns are around our economy, especially tourism, pork and other agriculture value chains and also for the vulnerability of the Cherbourg indigenous community,” Cr Otto said.

“The South Burnett is renowned as one of the most important agricultural areas in this state and one case of COVID-19 could put this at risk.”

“Kingaroy is home to the country’s largest pork producing plant and 95% of pigs in Queensland are processed at the plant. Any disruption to this could absolutely devastate the Queensland Pork Industry.”

“We need the pork industry and the supply chains that support for our local economy. Any processing interruption could see hundreds of job losses and our grain farmers hit again after decades of ongoing drought.”

Cr Otto also highlighted the importance of tourism for the area, which has been growing in recent months thanks to Queenslanders holidaying closer to home.

“This may not be of comfort to larger operators and those dependent on international travellers, but the push from the Queensland government to explore local areas is working for some areas, and when we boast places like the Bunya Mountains and wine and walking trails, it is good reminder to people these magnificent places exist at their doorsteps.”

“Our building industry is seeing demand go through the roof, with southern buyers looking to prepare for a tree change into regional Queensland. The industry has been struggling for several years, now we just don’t have enough land in towns such as Kingaroy.”

Cr Otto, alongside Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow, also stressed the importance of protecting our first nations people. Many of our indigenous communities have a higher rate of underlying medical conditions, putting them at a greater risk from COVID-19.

Cr Otto also said if the government are forced to bring in army or police to monitor permits and borders in towns around Cherbourg it could have long term impacts.

“The physical and mental health to these people will be catastrophic. Horrific memories will resurface – these people have already suffered intergenerational trauma. We wish to avoid this at all costs,” he said.

Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow said in her community, as with the wider Burnett, it would only take one person to enter Cherbourg carrying COVID-19 to potentially devastate the community.

She said the state government had taken the right steps to date with its border restrictions, but locals had to remain vigilant, particularly with social distancing and hygiene practices