‘Pretty nuts’: Border students cut off
Dozens of students living on the NSW side of the border have been cut off from their Victorian schools after several bridges were suddenly closed.
The Tooleybuc, Nyah and Murrabit bridges were closed - even to permit holders - when the Victoria-NSW border was shut on Tuesday night, leaving a 210km stretch along the Murray River between Robinvale and Barham with only one crossing.
Tooleybuc bridge - the main freight route between Sydney and Adelaide - was reopened on Thursday for permit holders following significant community pressure, but the Nyah and Murrabit crossings have remained padlocked shut.
It's left dozens of students living in small NSW towns like Koraleigh and Gonn stranded and unable to cross the border to their Victorian school bus stops.
Koraleigh mum Louise Dowdy, whose daughter attends Nyah District Primary and her son Swan Hill College, which are roughly 25km apart, said she was now facing a school run of 180km a day when term three resumes on Monday.
The trip is usually a 4km drive across the Nyah bridge to a bus stop that takes her son into Swan Hill.
"Now I've got to choose between my work and their education," she told NCA Newswire.
"I have all hope common sense prevails and they open the bridge before Monday."
She said people in Koraleigh also got their milk, bread and fuel across the border in Nyah and were now at least 40km away from the nearest petrol station.
One teacher at a border school said she had three students who were now forced to travel an hour to make it to class on time, with the kids and parents facing a trip of up to 70km instead of their usual 5km journey.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Whyte defended the bridge closures on Thursday and said some of the crossings were within 5-10km of another.
He said the hard closures and checkpoints were being reassessed every 24 hours.
"We'll monitor traffic, we'll monitor delays and where we need to we will open hard closures," he told reporters in Albury.
"Over the first 24 hours we continually reviewed everything and we determined we needed to open (three) that we hadn't opened.
"There's absolutely no impediment to emergency services in any of those areas."
Mr Whyte denied it was a lack of resources that led to hard closures of some bridges.
"We've got enough police on the ground to open where we need to open and we're managing quite well, but some of these crossings are within 10km or 5km of another crossing and it doesn't really make a lot of sense to have them both running," he said.
Beef farmer Simon Morton, whose family lives in NSW near the Murrabit bridge, has three children who need to cross the border to get to school.
They trialled their new 200km school commute via Barham on Thursday, as well as lifting their kids bikes over the locked bridge gates, but are yet to decide which option they will choose. He knows eight other school students facing the same situation.
"It's not ideal really, it's pretty nuts, it gets wet and slippery on a cold morning, so there's a safety risk lifting the bikes over," he said.
Federal Mallee Nationals MP Anne Webster has been pressuring the NSW Government and police to reopen both the Nyah and Murrabit bridges, while NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Helen Dalton has met locals at both bridges to protest.
Swan Hill College has lobbied local MPs on the closures as they have up to 12 students affected and are working on alternative arrangements such as redirecting buses through Tooleybuc to help accommodate students.
More than 30,000 vehicles have crossed the border from Victoria into NSW since it was shut on Tuesday night, with only 12 people refused entry and 88 others told to quarantine as of 10.30am on Thursday.
The Victorian Education Minister James Merlino and Education Department have been contacted for comment.
Originally published as 'Pretty nuts': Border students cut off