Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell.

Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell has asked the State Government to rethink its approach to lockdowns for rural and semi-rural areas moving forward, particularly in the City of Whittlesea.

Mr Mitchell said while it was a relief for the community that restrictions were now starting to lift, the rules for future lockdowns should offer greater consideration of rural and semi-rural communities.

“There has been a distinct rise in anxiety in my communities, such as Whittlesea township, Eden Park and parts of Beveridge and Kinglake West, which have been incorporated in Greater Melbourne lockdowns when, for all intents and purposes, they should be considered as regional,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We know there will always be problems no matter where you draw the line, but it causes enormous anxiety and stress as well as logistical nightmares when communities that straddle different council boundaries are split and face different rules.

Mr Mitchell said the Whittlesea township and the surrounding 3757 postcode was distinctly separated from the urban end of the City of Whittlesea, and residents in areas split over multiple local government areas had expressed to him their concern.

“It’s caused terrible concern and confusion for people in Kinglake West, which is split between the City of Whittlesea and Murrindindi and Nillumbik shires,” he said.

“In Beveridge, which is split between Mitchell Shire and the City of Whittlesea, residents on one side are treated as part of greater Melbourne so face different rules to the other side.

“By designating specific postcodes, which are separate rural communities, this would alleviate some of the issues which arose from the suburban postcode exemptions tried in the past.

In a letter to the State Government officials last year, Mr Mitchell asked that each postcode be assessed based on whether it aligned more with metropolitan or rural areas.

He has continued to lobby the State Government during this outbreak and has suggested several postcodes be reclassified as ‘regional’ for the purposes of COVID-19 restrictions, including 3757 (Whittlesea, Eden Park, Humevale and Kinglake West); 3753 (Beveridge); 3099 (Arthurs Creek, Cottles Bridge, Hurstbridge, Nutfield, Strathewen); 3761 (St Andrews); and 3759 Panton Hill, Kangaroo Ground, Watsons Creek and Bend of Islands.

Mr Mitchell said the changes would also limit movement into densely urbanised areas where risk of transmission is higher.

“Under current boundary restrictions, people in Whittlesea township cannot travel to Wallan for shopping and other essential services but are expected to travel to Mernda, which at times has had more actual hotspots,” he said.

“It is clear that many people in postcode 3757 would rather keep their connection with 3756 for shopping another essential services.”