Riverine Herald

Army troops in Echuca Moama to help patrol border

By Ivy Jensen

ARMY troops have arrived in Echuca-Moama to help patrol the border.

Which has seen lengthy delays over the bridge slashed. The troops are among 350 Australian Defence Force personnel supporting NSW Police with border control checkpoints on the NSW-Victoria border as part of Operation COVID-19 Assist.

Murray River Police District Moama officer-in-charge Inspector Paul Huggett said the troops arrived about 6pm yesterday to help man the checkpoints.

“We’re not discussing numbers but we’ve got a sufficient army staff to support the police operation and they will be on ground until the operation finishes,” he said.

ADF troops are helping to patrol the checkpoints at the NSW border into Moama. 

Insp. Huggett said the combined force of the army and extra police had helped overcome the congestion along the Echuca-Moama bridge since the NSW border closed at 12.01am Wednesday last week.

“Members of the public are telling us they’re crossing the bridge in less than 10 minutes and this is our peak time,” he said.

“One person said he’s been across the bridge twice in 20 minutes.

“With extra numbers on the line, we can cycle more cars through when they get to the checkpoint, where it might have been five or six cars whereas now it’s 15 to 20 cars. So just by sheer numbers, we can cycle more cars through the checkpoint.”

While Insp. Huggett said there appeared to be a lot less traffic over the past couple of days.

“I've never seen so much foot traffic over the bridge in the three years I've been here,” he said.

"People are parking at the Moama Soundshell carpark and under the bridge and walking over the bridge and we have also seen a lot more bicyclists, but now the traffic is flowing better we may see an increase in people driving again."

Insp. Huggett said police had encountered no serious problems over the past week and thanked community members for their patience.

“We’ve only had to issue a number of isolation permits and a few people have had to be turned around for the right permits but everyone’s been really good and polite,” he said.

“We’re still getting more food than the town could eat, which is beautiful. The town has been really nice. It’s going well.”

Traffic congestion has been slashed since ADF troops arrived in Moama to help patrol the border.  

Lieutenant Brooke McGregor from 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment, also praised the community for the support shown to the infantry battalion, who had come from Brisbane to assist in the operation.

“We were recalled from our holidays to sit on the border,” she said.

“A lot of my corporals have wives and kids at home and a lot of my soldiers have partners waiting at home for them, so having positive interaction with the police and local community makes being away from your family a lot easier.

“Some of us helped with Operation Bushfire Assist over the Christmas period, but for a lot of my soldiers this is the first time working out of Queensland and in country with local police.

“It’s been really positive working with the police. They’ve been nothing but kind and showing us how to work on the checkpoint.

“Engaging with the local community and being in a nice country town like Moama has been really positive.

“As long as the government need us to be here, we’ll be here.”

• Motorists are encouraged to place their border permits and licences on the dashboard to ensure visibility and the smooth flow of traffic.

"We are still getting people digging through the bags and pockets for the licence and permits, which causes delays," Insp. Huggett said.

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