By ERWIN CHLANDA
(UPDATED Dec 13 below)
The Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) is slamming the NT Government for the “mess” it created by the sudden announcement of new severe Covid restrictions, forcing all jabbed people arriving in the NT to stay within the high-vaccination zones of Alice Springs, Katherine and Greater Darwin for 14 days from December 20.
CEO Will Evans says the new rules are tearing Territory families apart for Christmas: “Instead of hugging their loved ones under the Christmas tree, boarding school students will be stuck hundreds of kilometres away from their families.
“Station workers will be unable to go interstate and come back without being forced to stay in a major centre. Interstate governesses and remote schoolroom teachers will be isolating in a city instead of teaching their students.”
Mr Evans says: “Twenty-four hours before these rules were handed down, Ministers of this Government looked pastoralists in the eye and listened to their stories of how difficult regulations had been on families in remote parts of the NT and pretended to care.
“The very next day the Government delivered a cruel backhander to the pastoral industry.”
Sarah Cook, State President of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association who represents education in the bush, said remote Territory families were left shaken and heartbroken.
“For Territory families who live, work and educate their children in the bush, this decision is particularly devastating. It will disrupt and create additional costs for accessing home tutors.”
Shadow Minister for Health, Bill Yan (pictured), says the Chief Minister has “cancelled Christmas for Territorians living in regional and remote areas, while further crippling our tourism and hospitality sector by again moving the goalposts of his COVID roadmap rollout.
“This is a kick in the guts to every single Territorian who has followed the health advice and done the right thing.
“The tourism sector is already on its knees and this latest change has slammed shut the doors to the Territory.”
Interstate tourists will be barred from Litchfield, Kakadu, Yulara and Kings Canyon until they’ve spent a fortnight in Darwin, Katherine or Alice Springs, he says.
Meanwhile, Territory kids who return from boarding school and live outside the major centres will be forced to spend Christmas apart from their families – because the Chief Minister has banned them from returning home.
“Michael Gunner has stuffed up the vaccine rollout from the very beginning, he’s failed remote communities and now fully vaccinated Territorians are being punished for his failures,” said Mr Yan.
UPDATED Dec 13, 6pm:
“Many stations are 100% vaccinated. How is it that we are being forced to stay in ‘high vaccination zones’ that have vaccination rates lower than this?” asked Mr Evans, asking whether the NTG themselves knew who was in charge of the debacle.
“This Government knows they’ve made a mistake and are trying to fix it on the run.
“The Chief Minister announces his ridiculous rule changes last week, then on Friday Minister Paech guarantees parents in regional areas there would be pathways for returning boarding school students, only then for Minister Fyles to ‘flag’ that there might be changes to the new rules for essential workers over the weekend.
“Who is in charge of this Government? Who is running the Northern Territory?”
“We have people who live and work near the Queensland border who have critical medical appointments with their nearest clinic which is in Mount Isa.
“These people will now have to go to their appointment in Queensland, come back to the NT and drive hundreds of kilometers past their home to spend two weeks in ‘home quarantine’ away from home.
“We have similar issues with the WA and SA border. A case-by-case exemption system simply will not be able to accommodate these movements. This Government must urgently make changes to these rules in consultation with the NT pastoral industry.”