WA travel restrictions in place but Esperance Shire says more is required

Workers prepare to shut down highways as part of the WA government's new restrictions on region-to-region travel. Residents of Esperance will no longer be able to venture out of the Goldfields-Esperance region. Photo: WA Police
Workers prepare to shut down highways as part of the WA government's new restrictions on region-to-region travel. Residents of Esperance will no longer be able to venture out of the Goldfields-Esperance region. Photo: WA Police

Locals fear an influx of visitors to Esperance would be like having a cruise ship on their doorstep. This comes on the back of new travel restrictions, which came into effect on Tuesday, closing the South Coast Highway at Ravensthorpe. However, the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway remains open.

Shire President Ian Mickel recently requested the government close the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and the South Coast Highway, to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Although the new restrictions have benefits Mr Mickel said the Council had hoped that the northern border of the Goldfields-Esperance region would have been brought further south, thereby severing the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway.

"We see our threats being the traffic that travels between Kalgoorlie and Esperance," he said. Mr Mickel said that the Council had hoped that the regional border would be south of Kalgoorlie.

Heavy penalties will apply to those who defy the restrictions, with fines of up to $50,000 on the table. Photo: WA Police

Heavy penalties will apply to those who defy the restrictions, with fines of up to $50,000 on the table. Photo: WA Police

"That hasn't happened as such, but we've got a standing request with the Premier, the Chief Medical Officer and the Minister for Health for WA to have the boundaries isolate Esperance completely."

Mr Mickel said he believes the new restrictions will ease the community's concerns but the desire to eliminate the north-south movement of people is strong.

"There is a program taking place between the Shire of Esperance and the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder to tell people to stay at home and not travel from Kalgoorlie to Esperance and from Esperance to Kalgoorlie through the Easter holiday period.

"We would hope that the message gets out and that people that may have originally thought they would come south to Esperance for that holiday period will take notice of that and remain in Kalgoorlie, and vice versa."

There is also concern about travellers coming through Esperance via the SA border who crossed into WA before the March 24 interstate lockdown. The WA-SA border was overwhelmed last week, with 675 vehicles crossing at Eucla the day before the lockdown came into effect.

Megan McDowall, who was one of the driving forces behind the community education video, Esperance, we need to talk, said locals are worried about being overwhelmed.

"There has been a very visible increase in the flow of interstate number plates into town," she said. "And this is a large volume to move through a community of approximately 14000 people. It is not unlike having a cruise ship arrive on our doorstep."

WA police have the power to enforce the new region-to-region travel restrictions, with fines of up to $50,000 for those who break containment lines without permitted reasons.