Delays have increased at Melbourne’s “ring of steel” checkpoints after motorists were earlier let through unchecked because of wet weather.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said delays had pushed from 15 minutes to about 30 minutes as officers ramp up enforcement after restrictions were eased in regional areas overnight.
Traffic at the Little River checkpoint on the Princes Freeway near Geelong is now banked back hundreds of metres after earlier photos showed the site unmanned while it was raining.
Mr Nugent confirmed on 3AW radio on Thursday morning that police were not monitoring the checkpoints due to rain but were out in force patrolling regional Victoria to catch any Melburnians who snuck through.
“(It is about) safety for members, we don’t want collisions at checkpoints,” he said.
“They shut down in the rain, for safety reasons.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said the odds were “very poor” for anyone who thought they might take a punt on heading to regional Victoria and not getting caught.
“You should not go to regional Victoria unless you have got a lawful reason to do that,” he said.
Nathan Templeton, Channel 7’s Sunrise reporter in Melbourne, was at the Little River checkpoint on the Princes Freeway near Geelong on Thursday morning and shared a photo on Twitter of the site unmanned.
The photo, which was posted about 8.30am, showed the checkpoint lane empty of both police, Australian Defence Force personnel and cars, with ominous grey clouds in the background.
Cars on the freeway were also seen going past unchecked.
“Little River checkpoint unattended at the moment due to rain. Police and ADF personnel in their tents,” he posted.
He also told 3AW radio that “every time the rain gets a little bit heavier the officers go inside”.
He posted another photo about 30 minutes later that showed officers back at work checking vehicles.
A caller to 3AW’s Neil Mitchell also said he went past the checkpoint just before 9am and said he couldn’t see any police or ADF personnel either.
But another caller just after 9am said she was waiting in quite a long queue of traffic at the same checkpoint.
There are seven permanent checkpoints separating metropolitan Melbourne, which is under stage 4 restrictions, and regional Victoria, which moved to stage 2 restrictions overnight.
Victoria Police were contacted for comment.
Mr Nugent said on Wednesday the checkpoints operations would be beefed up, and police would be highly visible and active to prevent Melburnians from entering country Victoria, particularly during school holidays.
“We will be checking every vehicle that is towing a caravan, camper trailer, other trailer, boat or jetski, or that has a surfboard, fishing rods or swags, they will all be checked,” Mr Nugent said.
Melburnians caught trying to flee the city into regional Victoria have been warned they could be fined almost $5000 for leaving the restricted area without a valid reason.
The new offence of failing to comply with the requirement to remain in a restricted area came into force from 11.59pm on Wednesday.