The entire Cardinia Shire has been plunged back into a six-week lockdown targeting metropolitan Melbourne’s rapid Covid crisis – despite many of the shire’s rural towns having recorded no cases.
The State Government’s “blanket” shutdown – which identified Cardinia as the furthest locked down boundary in the state’s east – has seen police checkpoints implemented in Bunyip and Lang Lang.
Cardinia Shire Council mayor Jeff Springfield urged residents to continue to take care of themselves and one another.
“I understand that many residents feel this is unfair to be included in the new round of restrictions, personally I would also prefer if it did not apply to our region,” Cr Springfield said.
“However, I also realise the very difficult task our State Government has. The bigger picture is how we can help get through this together as best as possible.
“It is vitally important that we continue to work together and follow the advice from health authorities to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“We understand that the latest announcement may be disappointing and may feel like a set-back for our community, our businesses and our community groups, but we are a strong community and together we will get through this.”
Neighbouring local government areas Baw Baw Shire Council and South Gippsland Shire Council avoided the strict shutdown, meaning Longwarry and Nyora, just down the road from Cardinia localities like Bunyip and Lang Lang are able to move around more freely.
Cardinia Shire Council Port Ward councillor Graeme Moore said while it was frustrating for the smaller communities, it was something residents needed to adhere to.
“The Premier could say the metro area was to the moon and back and we’d have to deal with it,” Cr Moore said, when asked if he thought it was fair that rural towns were subjected to the restrictions.
“I feel for the people of Cardinia, particularly the people in areas like Lang Lang, Kooweerup and Bunyip, but you’ve got to have a final point – so where do you draw that line?
“Where do you make the decision to stop and start it? Is it half of Pakenham. There’d be nothing worse than an outbreak in Bunyip and we had only locked everything down from Pakenham.”
Bunyip beef farmer John Anderson has been socially isolating for the past 16 weeks and said another six weeks would be manageable.
“We’re right on the edge but it’s fine, it is what it is, we’re part of Cardinia and we’ll do what it takes to beat this thing,” he said.
“Things still have to go on and there is always something to do on the farm. I feel sorry for people who can’t get out and are stuck in apartments or have small backyards.”
Fellow Bunyip resident, Rob Miglas, said the whole situation was a “bit strange”.
“I guess they have to draw the line somewhere but I did think it was a bit strange that it wasn’t drawn at Pakenham, which is probably the last major town,” he said.
“If you had never been to towns like Bunyip, Garfield or Tynong and were told it was metro Melbourne, you’d probably have a bit of laugh.”
Mr Miglas said he was empathetic to Premier Daniel Andrews and his role in trying to control the increasingly tricky situation.
“I guess it’s a little bit annoying and I get the cut off has to be somewhere but when you compare a town like Bunyip and Longwarry – they’re basically a spitting image. It’s a bit strange you’d have one small town out of it and leave the other one out of it,” he said.
“It does make things a little bit frustrating, especially with these small towns being locked down because we don’t have some of the luxuries that the inner suburbs have.”
Further south, Lang Lang op shop secretary Cynthia Gane also said it was frustrating to be classed in that category.
“It’s just ridiculous … I understand Melbourne going into lockdown but the interface shires is just over the top,” Ms Gane said.
“I’m sure the people of Kooweerup and Bayles and other small towns are just as miffed as we are here.”
Just minutes away in Nyora – which is located in South Gippsland Shire Council – residents are able to move around with less restrictions.
Ms Gane – who is involved in a trail riding course – said she was forced to hop off the horse for the next six weeks.
“Of course all the other girls are out riding and I’ve had to turn my horse around because I just don’t have the space on my property to ride,” she said.
In the Ranges Ward of Cardinia Shire, residents are also feeling the pinch of the lockdown.
Karen Alsop is a photographer who owns a studio and mobile gallery, based in Guys Hill. She said it was frustrating to be classified as metropolitan for the Covid-19 lockdowns, but not for things like postal delivery service.
“I think that classifying us as metro is not really correct, whether or not we’re included on the basis of health is a different story. At the moment we don’t have any cases but I know they need to keep on top of that,” Ms Alsop said.
“We’ve always, for some reason, been on the no roadside delivery area even though Upper Beaconsfield up the road gets deliveries.
“Running my business is really frustrating because it means I have to go to the post office to collect things and they end up with all my big packages in the back room.
“During the last lockdown the worry was having to go out more than necessary with needing to go to the post office, it means we’re putting more people at risk. They are putting us in this metro area for the lockdown but we don’t have any metro facilities.”
The frustration isn’t limited to the smaller localities, and many Officer and Pakenham residents have also weighed in on the decision to restrict movement.
An Officer resident, who didn’t wish to be named, believed Cardinia Shire should be shut off to people from inner metropolitan areas.
“I think it’s incredibly wrong and frustrating that we have to cop restrictions due to the fault of some northern and western suburb people that have totally ruined it for everyone now,” he said.
Liberal Gembrook MP Brad Battin said he was “exceptionally disappointed” that the Premier extended the lockdown this far out.
“I’m going through email after email from people all over the electorate who are asking around why they’re being penalised,” he said.
“Residents have been treated unfairly because this government is more focused on a blanket ban rather than focusing on their lives and needs.”