VIctorian Premier Daniel Andrews has raised the prospect of an earlier end to the hard border closure which has decimated Murray River tourism operators.
He returned from holidays earlier this week to declare the harsh border blockages to NSW would be re-visited as early as next week following zero new coronavirus cases in both Victoria and NSW in the past 24 hours.
Packed out NSW river towns including Howlong, Corowa, Mulwala and Barooga had an exodus of tourists a week ago when Victorians were ordered home.
"It's closed on advice and will be opened on advice and the advice is driven by what is happening on the ground in Sydney and throughout NSW," Mr Andrews said.
"We apologise and acknowledge the inconvenience, but the inconvenience is nothing compared to a third wave because that will be so hard for every single Victorian."
Checkpoints until the month's end
Murray Regional Tourism chief Mark Francis is tackling the tourism crisis on multiple fronts including getting the green light from state government so Melbourne holidaymakers can return and federal government special dispensation for tourism operators no longer eligible for JobKeeper due to the busy period they enjoyed between the end of the last Victoran lockdown to New Year.
"At a minimum we are going to have border checkpoints until at least the end of the month, but we can't wait that long to get people back up here," he said.
"We're actively encouraging people in the border bubble to holiday on the Murray.
"By the time we get some sort of government support, January is going to be finished.
"We don't have Sydney visitors coming into our region at this time of the year and operators are empty so we want Melbourne visitors, not Sydney visitors."
Demands 'unreasonable, unfair'
Mr Francis said he had raised the JobKeeper issue with member for Farrer Sussan Ley in recent days.
She has also written to Mr Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian about a more targeted approach to managing outbreaks rather than slamming borders shut.
"Country people are resilient, but the demands being placed on us in this latest border closure are both unreasonable and unfair," she said.
Mr Andrews defended the government's decision to go harder with the border closure on New Year's Eve.
"The responsibility that falls to us is to make very difficult decisions," he said.
"That is called leadership and some will be displeased with the decisions we've made. This is not a popularity contest. It is a global pandemic.
"I can't have a situation where there is a pathway home for you and you bring the virus with you."