Accommodation providers in the MidCoast local government area will be approached by Manning-Great Lakes police in the lead up to the Easter long weekend and the school holidays.
"As of today I have put specific taskings out to my police where I will be approaching accommodation providers," Commander of Manning-Great Lakes Police District Superintendent Shane Cribb said at a press conference with Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead and MidCoast Council general manager Adrian Panuccio at Taree Police Station on Tuesday, April 7.
"They need to be mindful that they also may be committing a criminal offence in allowing these people to stay in their premises.
"We're moving on now into the school holidays and coming into the Easter long weekend. I must say I'm very concerned at the moment; I'm aware that we have a number of people who have already travelled into the (Mid Coast) for holidays," Superintendent Cribb said.
"I will also be approaching people who are within the community, and if they do not have a lawful reason to be in the community, then there will be certain conversations had that may result in infringement notices being issued."
Superintendent Cribb said that if a person says they are here for work, then an investigation will be made by police. If the story does not check out, they will get an infringement notice in the mail.
"I don't want to have to issue infringement notices, but I'll make it quite clear - coming into this weekend, I'll have no hesitation in issuing $1000 and/or $5000 infringements if I have to. Unfortunately, it could make a trip up the coast a very expensive holiday."
I'll make it quite clear - coming into this weekend, I'll have no hesitation in issuing $1000 and/or $5000 infringements if I have to.Superintendent Shane Cribb
Both Superintendent Cribb and Mr Bromhead are well aware that local businesses have lost money and tourism over Easter and the school holidays would help them out, but say that right now is not the right time for any visitors to the area.
"I fully appreciate we've gone through the bushfires - I was part of that, I lived and breathed that." Superintend Cribb said.
"And I am aware that they have lost a lot of money with income during that time. But unfortunately we can't do anything about that at this time.
"We need to encourage the people who come here to visit to save their money and come back at Christmas time and enjoy it more. Because, quite frankly, if they come now and they pay their money to stay here, they can't go anywhere."
Were doing everything we can but if I can plead with the community - work with us, dont work against us, and we can all get through this at the end.Superintendent Shane Cribb
Superintendent Cribb also asked locals to do their "utmost best" to comply with regulations and said the community has been doing a fantastic job so far in self isolating.
He also wanted to put paid to rumours that RBTs would not be taking place.
"It's business as usual for the police," he said. "Highway patrol will be out on the highway. People will be getting stopped for random breath testing for drivers checks, and if their licence indicates that they don't live at Forster or Taree or anywhere in the LGA, they will be turned around and sent back home."
Superintendent Cribb wants to reassure the community that police will have a high visible presence during Easter and the school holidays.
"We're doing everything we can but if I can plead with the community - work with us, don't work against us, and we can all get through this at the end," he said.
He also has a warning for opportunistic criminals.
"We've got businesses that have closed, so I make no secret that if you want to go out and attack vulnerable people or vulnerable communities as a criminal, during this time of worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, then I can assure you we will take appropriate action, we will charge you and we will put you through the court the same as any other day during the week," he said.
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead and MidCoast Council general manager Adrian Panuccio echoed Superintendent Cribb's calls for non-locals to stay away.
"If you live here locally, if you've come to our area, pack up and go back home, otherwise you may get a knock on the door from the boys in blue and a $1000 fine," Mr Bromhead said.
"This is not the time to be in our area. This is not the time to be here on holidays.
"There is a significant amount of people who come to our area that come here because their family live here. The message for them is, don't come these holidays for a visit, wait for the emergency to be over," he said.