Mildura Regional Development Chief Executive, Brett Millington. 

By CHRIS EARL

THERE is optimism across Sunraysia ahead of Sunday’s expected announcement by Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria’s road map out of COVID-19 Lockdown 2.0.

A different roadmap has been promised to regional areas in Stage 3 lockdown compared with Melbourne living with tougher Stage 4 restrictions since early August.

The Premier said roadmaps would provide greater certainty to communities, tourism operators, and businesses that restrictions would be eased at a safe pace, based on localised health advice.

Government discussions with industry, union, and community organisations are part of final work on Victoria’s roadmap.

Mildura Regional Development chief executive Brett Millington wants a map where communities “like ours can be considered part of the other states in terms of our approach to COVID 19”.

Sunraysia communities have faced border crossing challenges with the NSW and South Australia Governments closing borders, limiting crossing between communities separated by the Murray River or a state line on a map.

“I believe the focus for the future should be on releasing regional Victoria to re-establish their local economies and support the broader Victorian economy, while Melbourne has a transition out,” Mr Millington said.

“We need to take a cluster, or hotspot approach, effectively having a two-week lockdown when a suburb or area is deemed a hotspot as we learn to live with this virus in our environment.

“I don’t think regional areas should have an influx of visitors from within the southern part of our state over the September school holidays – it’s too early to allow that travel to occur.

“However border communities should be open to NSW and South Australian travellers.

“And in the coming months there can a transition for broader travel between Melbourne and the regions,” Mr Millington said.

Northern Mallee Leaders program participants this week discussed what post-lockdown can look like in Sunraysia. Executive officer Nadia Sheriff said there were four key themes – Our New Normal, Maximise the Opportunities, Support Local and Be Kind.

“We must accept that this is our new normal and we can’t wait for someone to fix it for us. It’s going to take our voices and our actions, both individually and collectively to enable us to thrive again,” she said.

“And we must do this by providing people with the tools and a framework that allows us to support each other and enables us all to be a part of the solution to this problem.”

Nardia said the challenge in supporting local businesses was to “really mean it”. “Across our region, there is so much innovation happening in a variety of industries which with the right investment, could create new opportunities to drive our economy into the future.”

And NML participants said mental health “will undoubtedly become one of our country’s greatest challenges in the coming years, and so our roadmap should have a tangible framework that encourages and creates resilience and wellbeing within our communities.”

“It’s going to take innovative thinking and different ways to connect and deliver these services but it’s going to take a massive individual effort to ensure we are all looking out for each other. After all, how you make others feel about themselves, says a lot about you.”

“We have an opportunity to have input into our roadmap to recovery and not rely on someone else to tell us how it should be done.”

Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence has called for a roadmap that opens up Mildura for business.