A NEWLY elected councillor has slammed the Queensland government's decision to restrict entry into the state for some Moree Plains shire residents.
Mark Johnson, who was the first candidate in the recent Moree Plains shire election to be confirmed as a councillor said the ruling, which has split the shire, was causing heartache for residents.
Currently, the Moree Plains local government area (LGA) is deemed a restricted LGA under the Queensland Government's rules, meaning those from the restricted area can only enter Queensland for an essential reason, despite the state opening its borders to all of NSW on Monday.
However, the ruling only applies to some areas of the shire, as outlying towns like Tulloona, Garah, Boomi, Mungindi, Toomelah and Boggabilla are free to enter the sunshine state for any reason as long as they have a permit and are double vaccinated.
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"This decision from the Queensland Government really does feel like a bit of a kick in the guts for everyone in Moree, especially those with plans to enter Queensland for Christmas," Mr Johnson said. .
"We're all left feeling like lepers because it seems like everyone else is allowed in, except people from some parts of our shire."
Mr Johnson said he was baffled as to why the Moree Plains shire would be divided by the ruling.
"To me, it doesn't make much sense because throughout this pandemic every area of pretty much every LGA has been treated the same," he said.
"It makes me feel like we are being ostracised and punished for something.
"I'm not sure what the town of Moree has done, if anything, but I for one am certainly hoping the situation is rectified."
A Queensland Health spokesperson said a number of factors had gone into the government's decision to deem the Moree Plains a restricted LGA.
Testing numbers, infection rates and recent wastewater tests were among the indicators influencing the decision.
However, the spokesperson said the areas of the shire closer to the Queensland border were deemed not as high a risk and were therefore exempt.
The spokesperson said there was also no set date when these restrictions would be lifted and that Queensland Health would "continue to monitor the situation closely, and any changes to existing arrangements will be communicated to the public".
The Land understands that such complicating factors in applying for border permits were adding to the frustration for locals, but the spokesperson said while the permit system was controlled by the Queensland Police Service, there was assistance available on the Queensland Health website and via the government's 134 COVID hotline.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson said he was among those who had experienced challenges applying for a permit and was hopeful locals would be allowed into Queensland for Christmas.
"It has been a pretty tough year and I know a lot of people from across the Moree region will be hoping to travel into Queensland to spend time with family and friends for Christmas," he said.
"I think it is a bit of a hub for a lot of people from Moree, so I certainly hope this ruling is changed sooner rather than later.
"Personally, I don't think the permit application process is as straightforward as it could be, so hopefully there is some improvement there as well."
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