Border on alert

Warren Hately and Jackson Lavell-LeeAugusta Margaret River Times
The checkpoint at Waroona.
Camera IconThe checkpoint at Waroona. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/The West Australian, Shannon Verhagen

Police have warned anyone caught breaking the South West regional lockdown will face stiff penalties, amid reports of metropolitan residents using back roads to sneak into the Capes.

Residents were on high alert this week amid reports of non-Capes dwellers coming into the region via Collie, with an influx of Perth tourists feared for the Easter long weekend despite the police crackdown.

The City of Busselton carried out a number-plate audit at beaches, which indicated many people from outside the region had recently travelled to the South West.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River did not undertake the same action, but rangers and local police frequented Surfers Point and other key breaks enforcing social distancing measures.

Travelling between borders without correct paperwork was punishable with fines of up to $50,000 and $250,000 for companies, but none were yet levied in the region, according to police. “Police are aware that in certain locations, some members of the public are attempting to circumvent regional border control points,” a WA Police spokeswoman said.

“That’s why they have also implemented mobile patrols, and police have the power to stop any motorist to request an explanation for their travel.”

Busselton resident Meg Phillips-Jones said she travelled outside the region three times this week to work as a traffic controller in the Wheatbelt town of Mukinbudin and had not encountered any police presence.

“I have a letter from my employer so I’m ready to go through a checkpoint at any time,” she said. “I thought there would be a roadblock since I was coming from the Wheatbelt into the South West, but nothing. I haven’t seen a single police car.”

Shire president Ian Earl told the Times the logistics of enforcing checkpoints were complicated, but anyone found in breach would cop a stiff penalty.

With Easter looming, he reiterated the Premier’s message for travellers to stay away.

City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said anyone who flouted the regional restrictions were breaking the law and putting people’s health at risk. “The City is liaising with WA Police to increase the number of patrols in an effort to intercept those evading checkpoints and to undertake random licence checks of drivers with vehicles registered to locations outside the district,” he said.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said most people were doing the right thing, but police would extend patrols to areas such as Nannup and Collie.

“The feedback that I have received from WA Police is that the checkpoints are working and we have seen a 50 per cent drop in the traffic going along Forrest Highway,” she said.

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