NSW to lift travel restrictions in June as other states dig in over border closures

The New South Wales government has announced it will lift travel restrictions from June 1, as it looks to kickstart its tourism sector ahead of other state rivals.

Cultural institutions including museums and art galleries will also be allowed to open from the same date.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was “always open to welcome people from other states”.

“We intend to keep our borders open,” she said. “We think that’s best for New South Wales but also best for Australia.”

While the border between NSW, Victoria and the ACT remains open, Queensland and Western Australia are digging in, saying they will stay closed for as long as they feel is necessary.

While appearing to have not even a basic understanding of how Covid-19 testing works in an interview on TV show The Project, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszzuk has said her state’s borders may not open until September, despite growing frustration from the local tourism industry.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young there is a slight chance borders could be opened by July, but that was unlikely.

“The very, very earliest, and only if everything went absolutely perfectly, we might be able to think about opening up our border in July,” she said.

“If the tourism industry wants a more realistic scenario they should be preparing for September.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan has also dashed hopes of an early end to border restrictions, saying his state would stay shut for several months.

“I know the New South Wales Premier is unhappy, I know Mr Birmingham is unhappy. But frankly, bad luck,” he said.

“We’re doing the right thing by the people of WA.

“It might inconvenience the New South Wales Premier and some people from the eastern states, but frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has not set a date for when the state’s borders can re-open for interstate travel, adding it will depend on “what’s happening in other states and we have no control over that”.

NSW is aiming to capitalise on its rivals adherence to border closures, with Byron Bay looking to lead a tourism recovery.

Destination Byron president David Jones said domestic visitation will make up for the lack of international visitors.

“Byron is the wellness capital of Australia and is well equipped to service the wellness market better than anywhere else even with distancing restrictions,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Northern NSW was one of the last places in Australia to see hotel occupancies fall, and will be one of the first to see them return. It’s because our demand is a lot more sustainable than almost every other destination.”