Meet Gold Coast police's 'secret weapon'
MEET Queensland border police's secret weapon - four-year-old Harper Davie.
Harpie first met her mate Senior Constable Jason Durant at the Coolangatta border checkpoint at the height of COVID-19 in March.
Soon, she started bringing him and the other police on the border lollies every other day.
Earlier in the year, Harpie had been at nearby Greenmount Beach with her grandmother Stephanie Mckittrick when a passer-by told her if she didn't stop throwing stones he'd call the police and she'd "go to jail".
"She just started crying and I told her poppy was a policeman and they're good people so we went to see them at the border and drop off some water," Ms McKittirick said.
"It was Harpie's idea to buy them Lifesaver-brand lollies because she said they save lives."
Harpie and Snr Const Durant soon became great friends and the chatty four-year-old visited him whenever she was with her grandmother at Coolangatta, who would travel over from South Tweed.
"I just thought it was such a good opportunity for her to see they were good people and it all really turned around for her when she met Jason because he gave her time, even when they were so busy," Ms McKittirick said.
Harpie's grandfather served as a general duties officer with the NSW Police Force for 36 years.
Today the four-year-old met Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler and was given a police cap and toy police dog to say thank you for all her hard work during the pandemic.
POLICE READY TO SHUT BORDERS AGAIN 'WITHIN 24 HOURS'
QUEENSLAND police are ready to shut the borders again within 24 hours if needed, says the Gold Coast's top cop.
Addressing the media this morning following the opening of the border after 250 days, Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said: "If there was a dire need to reinstitute patrols, we've given the Government assurance we could do that in 24 hours".
Chief Supt Wheeler said many visitors had been waiting at Pottsville until the border opened and lined up from midnight last night, preparing to enter Queensland at 1am.
He thanked all police officers and partner agencies who had helped with the border closures over the past months, calling the operation a "mammoth and complex" effort.
While many officers will return to their substantive duties from today, a number will continue to man the 763 people still in Queensland quarantine hotels.
Chief Supt Wheeler said Queensland police had been the first line of defence stopping COVID-19 from coming into the state and now would turn their focus to "smashing crime".
"They've smashed the curve, they've stopped COVID coming into Queensland and we now want to see them smash crime and stop road trauma," he said.
People travelling to Queensland from NSW and Victoria no longer need border declaration passes, but those travelling from South Australia are still subject to a number of restrictions.
QUEUES AS BORDER REOPENS
TRAVELLERS from Victoria and New South Wales queued at the Queensland border overnight waiting for the closure to lift at 1am.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler welcomed travellers mostly from former hot spots into the state at the Griffith St, Coolangatta, checkpoint.
Chief Supt Wheeler said there was some confusion as drivers queued at 1am AEDT and had to wait an hour before driving through but the opening mostly ran smoothly.
"We were all down here at 1am, we worked our way to all the checkpoints," he said.
"We saw a lot of people coming from (former) hot spots from Victoria and greater Sydney … they thought they could cross the border at 1am daylight savings time, so we had to ask all of them to wait patiently before we could legally let them into the state.
"It all went smoothly and we had a little opening ceremony, it was quite a historic moment."
Chief Supt Wheeler urged Queenslanders and travellers into the sunshine state to stay vigilant.
"This isn't over by a long shot. We still have a hotel quarantine program that remains operational and we've seen the risks associated when those quarantine hotels have a breach."
M1 SHUTDOWN: MOTORWAY TO CLOSE FOR HOURS A
ALL northbound lanes of the M1 at the border are to be shut from 7pm on Tuesday night as a massive operation gets underway to remove COVID-19 checkpoints.
A southbound lane will also be closed as authorities begin the massive task of removing 100m of concrete barriers.
The road will not reopen until 5am on Wednesday, causing a fresh traffic headache for beleaguered border communities.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler pleaded with motorists to be patient as the mammoth operation got underway.
"The big job ahead of us in on the M1, we have 100m of concrete barriers in place. That will be a fairly lengthy and a little bit of a hazardous operation," Chief Supt Wheeler said.
"That's why we are going to have police in place to divert the traffic and have it done safely.
"I'd ask people just for one more day to be patient, we are doing everything we can to get all of that infrastructure out and I think the wait will be worth it."
In a statement, Transport for NSW said traffic would be diverted onto the Gold Coast Highway during the closure.
"To reduce impact to motorists, all northbound lanes of the tunnel will be closed from 8pm AEDT Tuesday 1 December to 6am AEDT Wednesday 2 December, weather permitting. One southbound lane will also be closed while routine maintenance work is carried out," the statement said.
"Northbound traffic will be diverted onto the Gold Coast Highway and Stewart Road during the closure. There is no diversion for southbound traffic.
"The tunnel will open to all traffic by 6am AEDT Wednesday 2 December."
Chief Supt Wheeler said police at border closures had seen some interesting events including a man allegedly driving a stolen car with paper number plates.
"A couple of weeks ago we (allegedly) saw 8kg of cocaine in a vehicle that was found by police," he said.
"In May, we (allegedly) saw some 93kg of cannabis. We've (allegedly) seen many instances of stolen vehicles, vehicles containing drugs, firearms and other contraband that have been located and intercepted at the border.
"On the first day of the border closure, we saw a NSW man … he came to our checkpoint in a stolen vehicle, warranted on warrants, with other contraband, and very interestingly, he fashioned a paper number plate that he wrote on by hand."
He said police who have manned border checkpoints since March 26 looked forward to resuming their normal duties.
Chief Supt Wheeler said during the strict lockdown there was an increase in drivers speeding.
"We saw average speeds raised concerningly because there was less traffic on the road and there had been an announcement in the suspension of our static roadside breath test and also speed camera detection.
"But we will now have all of our forces back out doing that."
Hotel quarantine to be cut short for some as borders reopen
GOLD Coast quarantine hotels face a mass exodus of Sydneysiders and Victorian guests who will no longer have to isolate once the borders come down to southern states.
Queensland Health has confirmed anyone who is in the midst of completing 14-days in quarantine after coming from a previously declared hotspot will be free to depart once the changes to the border rules take effect on Tuesday.
Guests will have to record a negative COVID-19 test, provide details as to where they will be residing in Queensland, and make a declaration that they haven't been in Adelaide - still a hotspot - for 14 days, before leaving.
"Anyone serving a quarantine period on 1 December who has entered Queensland from New South Wales and Victoria hot spots will be released from quarantine in line with the border opening, and will not need to complete their 14 days quarantine period," a Queensland Health spokeswoman said.
Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said stakeholders were currently working through the numbers.
"There will be quite a few (who will depart)," he said. "I think we'll find that a lot of people who have been quarantined some will be from Sydney, some from Melbourne, remembering also in the Gold Coast hotel system we do have international travellers so they will have to remain."
The Bulletin last week revealed almost 9000 guests had shuffled through hotel quarantine across more than 110,000 nights on the Gold Coast.
Tuesday will also mark the end of Queensland's fixed road border checkpoints which have been erected for 249 days.
Adelaide will remain a hotspot, pending a review at the end of the month, and travellers will only be allowed in to Queensland by air.
The border operation will significantly be scaled back and the bikie-busting Rapid Action Patrol squad and road policing unit will return to normal duty.
Police will continue to patrol the border area, and elsewhere in the state, on the lookout for rule-breaking South Australians and will be assisted by automatic number plate recognition cameras.
Supt Wheeler said all infrastructure would be removed, but would have checkpoints ready within a day again if needed.
"The current barriers, the cabins, the tents, the witches hats, the lighting that will all go, hopefully by Wednesday afternoon it will be like we were never here," he said.
"We've given an assurance to the disaster state co-ordinator that in the event we had to recommission border controls that we could do that within 24 hours, remembering that we did it for the first time in over 100 years in less than two days … so we have really detailed planning in place."
Supt Wheeler said it had been a "mammoth and complex operation" which involved 17 different changes.
"From the initial set-up, which was very rudimentary because of the time frame … we've essentially established small villages at each of the checkpoints," he said.
Originally published as Police ready to close border again 'within 24 hours'