UNSPILT BEER: Liam Wood’s plans to finally crack open the kegs have been dashed in a week of false hope and community frustration across Sunraysia with the COVID-free region navigating the same restrictions as areas closer to Melbourne with active cases. Photo: Paul Mensch
SUNRAYSIA’S plans for a jump into recovery mode have been left grounded and on hold.

Virgin Airlines on Wednesday said its Mildura-Melbourne flights would not return, one of 10 routes ditched by the struggling airline.

And anticipation that the region would receive a special roadmap out of COVID-19 staged lockdowns evaporated with Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement last Sunday of new trigger points for easing restrictions.

While still giving hope that the trigger points may be reached earlier than planned, the Government’s roadmap currently puts all regional Victoria in one basket.

The Government had said it was consulting the regions before its roadmap announcement.
Mildura Rural City Council told the ‘Weekly: “Council was consulted indirectly via the Municipal Association of Victoria, Regional Partnerships Mallee and Regional Development Victoria late last week.

“Councils were invited to provide comment on issues they felt important for the Victorian Government to consider in its roadmap to reopening, and to consider what might be needed for communities in implementing any changes.

“Our feedback focused on the need for a clear distinction between regional and metropolitan Victoria – to apply a ‘regional lens’ to regions such as the Mallee – which is consistent with council’s ongoing advocacy work with the Victorian, South Australian and New South Wales Governments.

“Council’s feedback also touched on ongoing difficulties with border issues, the need for clear communication, and the ongoing safety of regional communities.”

Community leaders have been calling for a cross-border trade zone that would see Sunraysia kickstart an economic revival.

Mildura MP Ali Cupper has put forward a four-stage alternative to the Premier’s roadmap that would see Sunraysia, without an active COVID-19 case in the area for five months, open up earlier.

Disappointment COVID-19 restrictions could be in place until the end of the year was echoed by Liam Wood who operates The Setts pub and Secret Garden.

“We had a staff meeting on Saturday thinking that we were going to need to fire up shortly and what would our plan of attack be,” Mr Wood said.

“And then to be kicked in the guts again on Sunday was really heart wrenching. It’s the third time around now, and while you try to be positive, if we have to stick with what the Premier is talking about, such a long road out – that’s another three months.

“We’ve already gone through six months and so we are talking about half that time again.”
Mr Wood said the situation was compounded by the fact there haven’t been any cases in Mildura for five months.

“We have the beautiful weather kicking in and if we could open up now we could start to peg back some of our losses,” he said.

“When you start to talk about opening after November 23, we usually have a great December and January and then we are back to being quiet again in February – two months isn’t going to get back the eight or nine months that we have lost.

“Of course we want everybody to be healthy in Mildura and everyone has been for a very long time.
“We seem to be lumped into the same boat as Melbourne in these cases and then forgotten about when it comes to budget.”