Queensland border pass: What you need to enter the state after borders reopen

UPDATE: The Queensland government has now stated that Victorians will not be allowed to enter the state, even if they are willing to quarantine for two weeks on arrival. However, Victorian travellers who have already been out of Victoria for at least 14 days will still be allowed to enter.

There are nations in the world where you barely need a passport in order to enter from a friendly neighbouring country. But now in Australia, in the midst of a worsening pandemic, anyone seeking to cross the border from New South Wales into Queensland on Friday will require a stern, official-looking border pass to do so (though good luck working out how and when to secure one).

It's the "Queensland Border Declaration Pass", a version of which I downloaded via a special online portal earlier this week. That was ahead of a visit to the Sunshine State on Friday, when the border at Tweed Heads-Coolangatta is due to reopen, after closing for the first time in a century.

It features a "reference ID" as well as demanding the details of my accommodation. The document's bearer must complete an online questionnaire declaring that all of the information provided in relation to COVID-19 is true. Any falsehoods can lead to a $4004 fine or a court-imposed penalty of $13,345.

Applicants are asked whether in the past 14 days they have been overseas, had contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19, been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot (namely Melbourne), have had COVID-19 or have experienced any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

However, this is where the confusion begins. Did I download the correct form? No one in Queensland contacted by Traveller, includings its police service, the office of its health minister, Steven Miles, or Tourism and Events Queensland seems to know for sure. 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk herself hasn't helped matters having stated earlier in the week that the border pass questionnaire would be updated on Wednesday to allow for applicants to list "recreational travel" as their reason for travelling to Queensland (on the online form  downloaded I ticked "cross-border travel" as my explanation as I will be travelling to the border from Bangalow, near Byron Bay, NSW).

But as of Wednesday night - less than two days before the reopening - the update hadn't occurred, with Traveller readers planning to cross the border expressing confusion and unable to obtain any guidance from Queensland authorities. 

My existing grey-coloured pass is for a short visit to Queensland to mark the historic border reopening, but that's been overshadowed by the dramatic announced closure of the NSW-Victoria counterpart.

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The pass, or the correct one for tourists, is required for entry via road, rail, air and sea. The border was closed on March 26 for the first time since the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919. Curiously, no record was kept of the date when it reopened.

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said those travelling by road will need to have a border pass clearly displayed within their vehicle to "enable priority passage" as well as carry identification bearing a residential address. "The Queensland Border Declaration Pass is everyone's responsibility to understand," he said.

People need to "listen to the Queensland public health directions and follow them closely, including those who intend to travel into Queensland from other states.

"Anyone coming to Queensland who has been in Victoria or another hotspot within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine in a designated hotel at their own cost. This includes Queenslanders returning home from Victoria or other hotspot areas."

It was reported this week that Queensland Police have expressed concerns about the possibility that Victorian travellers will be smuggled into the state in the back of trucks in order to avoid detection.

With new rules in force from Friday, anyone entering Queensland from Victoria is to be forced into hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own cost; about $3000.

The opening of the border, combined with confusion over the border pass, has the potential to cause major traffic snarls on both sides of the crossing on Friday especially with the so-called grey nomads, who have been massing in NSW towns near the border for their own forays into Queensland.

It's estimated by the Caravan Industry Association that at normal times, as many as 80,000 grey nomads head north from the southern states to enjoy Queensland's sunnier climes and to continue their journeys around the country.

Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said grey nomads from Victoria who have been waiting in NSW have been taking dated photos of their locations in order to prove they have not been in Victoria for 14 days, where a six-week lockdown has been declared in and around Melbourne.

They may also be required to provide accommodation and fuel receipts as further proof. Deputy Commissioner Gollschewsk has advised travellers planning to cross the border to allow extra time, have their declaration pass ready and remain patient.

See also: Grey nomads mass at Queensland border ahead of annual invasion

See also: Tasmania seeks ways for travellers to bypass Victoria

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