FREEDOM came to the border in the first minute of Monday morning with the crossing checkpoint removed from Chaffey Bridge after 138 days.
Bollards that had corralled cars crossing from Mildura into New South Wales since early July had been taken away in the hours before by forklifts as the tail end of Sunday’s wind and rain petered out.
The weather shelters that had protected NSW Police and Australian Defence Force personnel checking motorists for border crossing permits and ID proving they could go over the Murray River had been replaced with umbrellas for the final shift of police out of Sydney for their COVID-19 tour of duty.
Hardly a car took on the checkpoint in the final 30 minutes of the first NSW-Victorian border closure in a century and not one as the freedom hour of midnight approached
A minute later − while Victorian restriction changes always kick in at 11.59pm, NSW goes for 12.01am − sole runner Michael McAlister came jogging with ease through what a route that had once been up to a 40-minute wait for people crossing from Mildura to Buronga.
Michael negotiated his way between police officers walking to a parked mini-bus ready to return them to their Sunraysia overnight accommodation.
He said with elation that border freedom had returned after a closure that should never have happened, waving about his mobile phone showing the time a 12.01am.
Michael said that back in July, he had made a final running dash back in Victoria before the border slammed shut and simply had to mark the occasion.
Within minutes, the only sign of the way things had been was a stockpile of bollards down on the river road and speed warning signs awaiting later collection.
The checkpoint was no more … the bollards and barriers had done a midnight runner.