The NSW Police Force will re-open the NSW/Victorian border at midnight tonight, following an unprecedented four-month police operation that facilitated the movement of more than five million vehicles.
On Wednesday 8 July 2020, the Public Health (COVID-19 NSW and Victorian Border) Order 2020, under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010, directed that no one could enter NSW from Victoria, unless they fulfilled specific exemption criteria.
Over the past four-and-a-half months, more than 14,000 police officers from across the state have travelled to various locations across the NSW/Victorian border in support of the operation.
The high-visibility operation included General Duties officers from across NSW, as well as Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, and other specialist units, such as the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit and Dog Unit.
At the commencement of the operation, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller APM appointed Assistant Commissioner Scott Whyte as the Operation Commander and Superintendent Paul Smith as the Forward Commander.
Police were assisted by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), with 1200 personnel from all three services – Army, Navy and Air Force – deployed from Thursday 9 July 2020 to Friday 30 October 2020.
The operation also benefited from the assistance of other NSW Government agencies, including Transport for NSW, and other law enforcement jurisdictions, including Victoria Police.
During the operation, police and ADF members manned 27 border checkpoints within five Police Districts across both Southern and Western Region.
More than 100,000 police shifts were completed, with an average of 500 police officers manning checkpoints along the border each day.
More than 80 per cent of vehicle movements were undertaken by local residents within border towns.
However, seventeen Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) and seven charges were laid in relation to border control directions during the operation.
Almost 800 traffic infringements were issued, and more than 70 charges were laid for a range of offences, including drug supply, weapon possession and drink driving.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the government has been focused on responding to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic since the start of this crisis.
“All of the public health orders have been consistent with our commitment to keep the people of NSW and particularly our border communities safe,” Mr Elliott said.
“The border closures have been an extraordinarily difficult decision to make, but I cannot commend highly enough the dedication and professionalism of both NSW Police officers and our Australian Defence Force officers who have implemented the operational responses to limit the spread of the virus between NSW and its surrounding states.”
NSW Police Force Commissioner Mick Fuller said the operation had undoubtedly saved lives, by preventing the spread of COVID-19 into NSW.
“From day one we said this would be a dynamic operation, and I am proud of the job our officers, in partnership with ADF members, have done in protecting the people of this state,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“Some have travelled long distances to be here, often for weeks at a time in difficult conditions, manning dozens of checkpoints, while acting in line with the health advice and making sure our community is protected.
“Today marks a new chapter in our fight against COVID-19, but I want to be clear – police will continue to enforce all public health orders as this pandemic evolves.”
Superintendent Paul Smith said the support of local communities from the coast to the South Australian border throughout the operation had been a major contributing factor to its success.
“I would like to extend my thanks to those border communities who were patient and complied with our directions over the past four months,” Superintendent Smith said.
“Police worked closely with local Members of Parliament and the mayors of border communities to minimise disruption to everyday lives.
“Not only was the community’s patience appreciated, but many of our officers have reported stories of their generosity, kindness and gratitude – which will not be forgotten.”
Police continue to appeal to the community to report suspected breaches of any public health order, or behaviour which may impact on the health and safety of the community.
Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.