Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' decision to boot Wagga and three other Riverina LGAs out of the border bubble has left local community leaders confused and disappointed.
As of 11:59pm on Tuesday, the council areas of Wagga, Hay, Lockhart and Murrumbidgee have been declared extreme risk zones by the Victorian government, bringing them in line with the rest of NSW.
The change comes as Victoria emerges from its fifth lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Wagga City Council mayor Greg Conkey said he had "difficulty following the logic" behind the decision after the announcement was made on Tuesday morning.
"Wagga has had no COVID cases and we were part of the bubble up until the lockdown ceased in Victoria, and now for whatever reason we're excluded from that bubble," Cr Conkey said.
"We are only 125km from the border, that's the closest border - Wodonga - and we have a lot of association with Wodonga through the medical facilities they provide, as well as other facilities that we access from this region."
Cr Conkey said he "can't understand why Wagga has been excluded" and would like to know who labelled the region as "extreme risk".
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Under the border bubble changes, residents from the Wagga, Hay, Lockhart and Murrumbidgee LGAs will now be required to have a permit or exemption to enter Victoria.
"I take no pleasure in having to essentially lock out those four communities from Victoria, but there's a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so I have no choice but to make these changes," Mr Andrews said.
The Victorian premier also flagged further changes to the border bubble in the near future.
"We have to do everything we can to keep this virus out of our state and it's obviously regrettable that we've had to do that all the way down at the Murray, but we'll do what we can," he said.
Cr Conkey said there "hasn't been any transparency" around the decision.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said the decision is "extremely disappointing" for the affected council areas, although it does "reinforce the importance of keeping the virus contained in Sydney and out of regional areas".
"It would be helpful to know the precise reasoning behind this decision, and I trust that it is not simply a matter of playing politics," Dr McGirr said.
Dr McGirr said the timing of the border bubble changes - in line with Victoria easing its restrictions - also "highlights the difference between the short, sharp lockdown approach of Victoria and the prolonged struggle we are currently facing in NSW".
Cr Conkey said the city's police officers have been "very active" in clamping down on anyone travelling to Wagga from Greater Sydney, especially around Wilks Park where campers frequent.
"I'm certainly appealing to the people of Sydney not to come to this city," he said. "I'm very proud of this community, the vast majority of people are doing everything to lower the risk of COVID coming to this community and spreading it."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's office did not respond to questions from The Daily Advertiser regarding changes to the border bubble and the possible spread of COVID to the regions in NSW.
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