For many fly-in fly-out workers changes to border restrictions will see them reunited with their families after months interstate.
But for some, the news was bittersweet.
Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Friday that Tasmanian FIFO workers would no longer need to quarantine when flying back from work, as long as they travelled from a “safe” state or territory.
However for those working in Western Australia, where strict quarantine restrictions remain in place, the possibility of returning home to Tasmania remained uncertain.
Mark Anderson has been away in WA for nearly three months.
The 50-year-old Launceston father was forced to relocate when quarantine rules were put in place in both his home state, and the state where he is employed.
Ordinarily, he would work two weeks on, and have one week off – which included two days of travel.
But now, he has been spending his time off in hotels, and away from his wife and two daughters.
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During Mr Anderson’s 11-week stint away, he had missed his daughter’s 16thbirthday, and was unable to be there for his best friend when his wife passed away.
“I haven’t been able to give him that support, I couldn’t go to the funeral, that was really hard,” Mr Anderson said.
While he was “ecstatic” to hear Tasmania had removed its quarantine restrictions for FIFO workers, he said it was disappointing state leaders were not working together to have consistent rules across the country.
About 600 FIFO workers are based in Tasmania, and Mr Anderson said about three-quarters of those workers fly from the island state to WA.
“Tasmania would lose about $50 million dollars in our wages if we were all forced to move interstate, and that is not including our wives wages,” he said.
It was that financial benefit Mr Anderson believed was part of the border decisions by both the Tasmanian and Western Australian governments.
“We have a Liberal premier wanting us to come back now so we will be boosting the economy in Tassie, and a Labor premier not wanting us to leave because we are boosting his economy,” he said.
“I would have expected state and federal governments to approach this in a far more bipartisan way than they have.”
While he will travel back to Tasmania for annual leave at the end of November, Mr Anderson will be required to return to hotel quarantine in WA, at his own expense.
Once he completes isolation, he will look at purchasing his own property in WA where he will stay indefinitely, until he can travel between the states again.
The border announcement came alongside changes to quarantine restrictions for seasonal workers, with some FIFO families accusing the government of prioritising one industry over the other.
When questioned on Saturday about whether the state government should have made the border changes for FIFO workers earlier, Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said the decisions had always been made based on public health advice.
“It’s really good that we’ve been able to relax those restrictions, while maintaining that priority to keep Tasmanians safe,” he said.
“This will provide support for those families that have their loved ones as FIFO workers in other states. The mental health and wellbeing of Tasmanians is a priority, and this will provide some relief for sure going forward. I know the feedback from the mining and mineral processing sector is very positive.”
FIFO workers will no longer need to quarantine when they fly into Tasmania from safe states and territories as of midnight.
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