Canberrans will be able to return to their favourite holiday spots in time for a June long weekend getaway after changes to NSW travel bans. The NSW government is to confirm on Wednesday it will lift bans on travel within the state from June 1.
The expected news will follow Premier Gladys Berejiklian's earlier foreshadowing travel was back on the cards thanks to falling coronavirus infection numbers.
Last night's widely reported confirmation will give the green light for ACT residents to cross the border to holiday for the first time in months.
"Because we do have control of the spread at this time and we have dealt with the health issues in NSW, that's given communities confidence and I feel like it will be imminent," Ms Berejiklian said early on Tuesday.
The change will be a welcome relief to South Coast businesses reeling after the summer bushfires and the COVID-19 shutdown.
But Ms Berejiklian conceded opinion in tourist areas around the state was split. "We've been discussing this with regional committees. Some are a bit more anxious than others about welcoming tourists into their towns. Some want it desperately because they appreciate the economic activity."
The change will allow for travel for the Queen's Birthday long weekend from June 6-8. It will fall too late for the ACT's additional long weekend for Reconciliation Day on Monday, June 1.
Some South Coast venues said they had already had bookings from Canberrans, some of whom postponed during the fires.
Up until last night the NSW regulation was explicit: "You may not travel to regional NSW for a holiday."
But in expectation of the ban on tourism being lifted, publicity campaigns were being prepared.
"There's a buzziness in the area," Alison Miers, president of the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Council said. "We are ready."
When we get that green light, we will be here with open arms to welcome Canberrans.Liz Innes, Mayor of Eurobodalla Shire Council
But non-business people weren't so confident.
Mayors were getting different messages from different groups.
"We've been slapped around the chops," Sharon Tapscott, Mayor of Bega Valley Shire Council, said.
In her area, 90,000 people were evacuated in a single day because of bushfires.
After the fires were out, people and businesses were planning to rebuild.
"We were really looking forward to Easter," she said.
"Then COVID hit and it was down tools again."
Now, there are different views. Businesses are desperate to get tourism back but there are also older people on fixed incomes who feel vulnerable.
It is the same in Batemans Bay, according to Liz Innes, Mayor of Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Some people had rung the council expressing wariness about outsiders bringing in the virus, but others had called saying business should re-open, particularly because of the double-whammy of the fires and then the virus.
Speaking before last night's announcement, she was optimistic and enthusiastic.
"When we get that green light, we will be here with open arms to welcome Canberrans," she said.
She sensed a yearning by visitors "coming out of COVID hibernation, for people to kick off their shoes and walk along the beach and reconnect with nature, and slow down to the simple pleasures that people will really value."
"After the bushfires were put out, we said to our visitors, 'Come back and support us', and the response was overwhelming," she said. "It was inspirational.
The ACT government said the feelings of coast communities should be respected.
Canberrans had gone down to the coast after the fires to support the devastated communities, and they had stayed way when people on the coast said they didn't want city people retreating there in the hope of avoiding the virus.
"If the rules change in NSW, I'm sure Canberrans will abide by those rules. If Gladys Berejiklian deems it OK, and if the medical advice stacks up, I think Canberrans can cope with that," a spokeswoman said.
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