Queensland police are preparing for a summer season like no other, as they race to devise a strategy to concurrently deal with the coronavirus crisis and a La Nina.
Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski told ABC radio on Friday morning the force’s 12,000 sworn officers were preparing for the likely situation of a bushfire, flood, or other major weather event at the same time police manage the state’s coronavirus response, including manning the domestic border.
It comes as a La Nina event was declared for the Australian summer, the first since 2010. As a result, there’s likely to be above average rain for northern and eastern Australia, with up to 15 cyclones possible.
Until this week, police at the Queensland/NSW border had been supplemented by Australian Defence Force troops, with police now needing to adjust to fill the gap.
“We wish they (the ADF) could have stayed, they did a fantastic job,” Mr Gollschewski told ABC radio.
“But we’ve got a rather interesting looking wet season to prepare for.”
On “day 248” of Queensland’s public health emergency, State Disaster Coordinator Mr Gollschewski is now planning for the likely situation of “concurrent events” this summer.
“We anticipate some sort of weather event – whether that’s a bushfire or heavy rain or flood – at the same time as (we are dealing with) COVID-19,” he said.
“We’re preparing strongly for that, but we’re confident we have that under control.”
At least 1000 police officers around the state are involved in the COVID-19 response, 12 per cent of the force’s 12,000 sworn officers. On Thursday, at least 95 were stationed at the border.
ADF support continues to be provided at other major coronavirus management points such as hotel quarantine and international arrivals, assistance Mr Gollschewski welcomes as Queensland’s arrivals cap increases.
“The flight cap has this week increased to 700 people per week, and up to 1000 in the coming weeks. It’s great to have more people coming home,” he said.
“We’re grateful for ADF assistance.”
Queensland’s border has relaxed slightly to allow free travel between the Sunshine State and more regions of northern NSW, giving an extra 152,000 people access to the northern state.
In the first 24 hours, police checked 4644 cars and turned around 71. Police are urging motorists to plan ahead for the long weekend, with lengthy delays expected for Monday’s public holiday in Queensland and NSW.
“Please be patient,” Mr Gollschewski said.