Despite ongoing concerns among the community that tourists will continue to visit the Great Lakes this Easter, the NSW Police Force has made it clear they will be cracking down on anyone who chooses to travel without a reasonable excuse.
Assistant deputy commissioner responsible for policing in regional NSW, Geoff McKechnie, said police will be actively enforcing the travel restrictions outlined under the public health order introduced by the NSW Government on Monday, March 30.
"If you do decide to travel over this time, NSW Police Force will be conducting compliance operations," Mr McKechnie said.
"We will be on the roads, we will be targeting all the things we normally target over the school holiday and Easter period. Illegal hunting, trespassing, all of those things that we are normally out there looking for will be the same but additionally, we will be looking for people who are travelling unnecessarily, without a reasonable excuse, and we will be ensuring that those people comply with the directions."
This correspondent found out firsthand just how seriously police in the Manning-Great Lakes district were taking things this week when, ironically while driving to Pacific Palms for the purpose of this story, I was pulled over and asked what I was doing in the area.
After explaining I was travelling for the purposes of work, the police officer explained he had run my registration number and discovered I was a resident of the Manning, not the Great Lakes.
My excuse was deemed reasonable given it complied with the public health order, but it was nonetheless a clear reminder that the authorities were serious about restricting the spread of COVID-19.
A spokesperson for NSW Police Media said police would be conducting proactive high-visibility patrols throughout the Manning-Great Lakes district over the Easter holidays, particularly in communities that were known to be tourist hot spots.
Other measures have also been taken at a local level, with numerous real estate businesses in the area no longer accepting holiday bookings.
On Friday, March 27, Pacific Palms Signature Properties put a block on taking holiday rental bookings until the end of July. They have also been refunding all cancelled holiday bookings.
Licensee, Greg Hope, said the business had taken the measures to discourage visitors and also relieve some of the economic pressures people were facing.
"We're trying to prevent a further problem but also respect people's financial burdens," he said.
NSW Crimestoppers has set up a dedicated web page for people to report individuals who they believe are not adhering to the public health order restrictions. A spokesperson for the NSW Police Media said they encouraged people to use their common sense before reporting anyone.
Under the public health order guidelines, a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person's place of residence.
Examples of a reasonable excuse include:
- obtaining food or other goods and services;
- travelling for the purposes of work or education if the person cannot do it at home;
- exercise; or
- medical or caring reasons.
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