Cross-border community members have cautiously welcomed the state government's backflip to reinstate the 40-kilometre buffer zone along the SA-Vic border from midnight tomorrow night after a week of being locked out.
But many in the ag industry who operate outside the border bubble are calling for sector-specific permits like those available in NSW.
They say it would give greater certainty to primary production, especially as the government has said the buffer zone decision is dependent on there being no further COVID-19 cases in western Vic.
At last week's national cabinet meeting, discussions began on an Agriculture Workers Code. Each state's Agriculture Minister isundertaking further workso a paper can be considered to resolve cross-border issues.
It would be apply to those with occupations deemed critical for ag to continue.
Primary Industries Minister David Basham says agriculture has always been considered essential work by the state government, with workers eligible to apply for essential traveller permits.
He says they are working with each sector to address cross-border issues and is open to progressing an Agriculture Workers Code.
He also welcomes the proposal by federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud for the recommencement of the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program..
"Any work vacancies should first and foremost be filled by South Australians looking for a job but we will work with each industry to determine their needs," he said.
Livestock SA chief executive officer Andrew Curtis says there has been considerable angst in the past week among those in cross-border area, largely due to a lack of clarity about restrictions.
"There have been a few people knocked back but if they have a legitimate reason they just need to go through the process, with the first part a COVID risk assessment plan," he said.
"We have got to get this sorted before spring. We have all sorts of industries that require skilled seasonal workers from hay to shearing or fruit picking and not every one of them lives in this state," he said.
Mr Curtis says an ag permit would "solve a lot of issues" for those who operate in multiple states, especially if approvals were processed by those with a sound knowledge of ag.
The shearing industry in particular will be "under pressure" come spring, he says, without 180 to 200 shearers and woolhandlers coming into the state from New Zealand.
Livestock SA has been working closely with the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia to bring in NZ shearers, with one team soon to quarantine in Adelaide.
They are also working with authorities to see if it is possible for shearing teams to self-isolate together while working on-farm so they do not incur $3000 hotel quarantine costs and forego two weeks' wages.
Penola farmer David Galpin says an ag permit would be 'the ultimate" to guarantee fewer disruptions to the supply chain.
"If people want food produced we are where it starts and if you slow us down in any way, the food supply will eventually be slowed down as well," he said. "We have five properties across the border and never see anyone when we go across there bar our animals."
He is pleased the latest cross-border directive is much clearer for farmers than a fortnight earlier.
Importantly, it states that farmers can use 'prohibited roads' if it is the shortest route between their SA and Vic properties, rather than travelling many more kilometres through the official border checkpoints.
"We are only 500 metres from the back of our SA property here to our Vic property but if we have to go around the road it is something like 11km," he said.
Previously, Mr Galpin's daughter Teegan - who lives on one of their Vic properties - received an expiation notice for more than $1000 for being on a prohibited road.
BORDER FARMERS LEFT IN LIMBO
HAVING farms more than 500km apart in two states has created a nightmare for young farmers Rebecca Barry and Matt McDonald.
Usually splitting their time between Mr McDonald's family's farm on the Yorke Peninsula and a grazing property they own near Apsley, only about seven kilometres into Vic, they found themselves locked out of SA when the hard border changes came in on Friday.
This was because their SA property did not sit within the 40km cross-border zone, unlike many other affected farmers.
They say the most frustrating aspect was the lack of clarity, only being told at the eleventh hour before the new rules came into effect that they needed a different permit to one they had crossed the border with for months.
"We were told one day that we didn't need to re-apply as essential travellers as our current cross-border permit was adequate, to then the next day being told at a checkpoint that we didn't fit that criteria, like we did the day before," Ms Barry said. "At the checkpoint we were told by SAPOL to 'get someone to check your livestock for you' - it is not that easy."
In desperation late last week, Ms Barry and Mr McDonald took the drastic step of renting a house in Penola to enable them to apply as cross-border residents.
We fully agree with border closures for health reasons but the issue is with the state government regulations and their 'one size fits all' approach.
They were relieved to get their approval on Monday night and have been able to get across to their Vic property for shearing this week.
But, they are still proceeding with their essential traveller application as they only have a three-month lease in Penola which is already costing them $3500.
They are calling on the state government to expedite their COVID-19 management plans submitted at the weekend with SA Health and help them get the necessary permits.
"We fully agree with border closures for health reasons but the issue is with the state government regulations and their 'one size fits all' approach," she said.
"Everyone should be assessed on a case by case basis -whether that is medical, farming or education."
Ms Barry is an advocate for an ag permit but says to be effective, it would need to be inclusive of all family members, especially in their case where they are both farming with two young children.
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