Albury and Wodonga party as midnight marks end to long border closure

They partied at the stroke of midnight to the beats of a DJ and the crooning of an Elvis impersonator as the checkpoint that divided Wodonga and Albury finally came down.

With police car lights flashing to mark the occasion, dozens of cars streamed through the reopened NSW-Victoria border.

Cars cross the NSW-Victoria border after it reopened overnight.Credit:Getty

The checkpoint was imposed in July when Victoria was entering the depths of its lockdown. A permit system allowed travel across the checkpoint for border communities but for many residents it meant sitting in long queues to reach work and other commitments.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack said there was elation and relief at the border as cars sailed through the checkpoint unimpeded by the police and Australian Defence Force personnel who had been stationed there for months.

There were busy scenes again on Monday morning, Cr Mack said.

"The Hume Highway was packed with cars with Victorian numberplates," he said.

Wodonga’s local Elvis Presley performs at the border checkpoint at South Albury.Credit:Lisa Maree Williams

But Cr Mack said the healing process would take time with the effect of the separation to be felt possibly for years to come.

"The mental health impacts will be demonstrable," he said.

He said catching up with loved ones would be the priority for many people in the community that straddles both sides of the Murray River.

Business Wodonga president Graham Jenkin urged residents and visitors to support local retailers and businesses to help with their economic recovery.

Cars make their way along Wodonga Place as the border checkpoint at South Albury is reopened.Credit:Lisa Maree Williams

"We need local people to shop locally as much as possible," he said.

He said returning to work would also help with the mental recovery.

"I came back to the office two weeks ago because I felt like I was living at work rather than working from home."

But Mr Jenkin said he was proud of the way businesses had supported one another on both sides of the Murray River.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack (centre) when the border checkpoint was set up in July. Credit:Justin McManus

"I know with hairdressers a lot of them referred their clients to other hairdressers over the river to save them having to cross."

Visit Albury Wodonga tourism team leader Sue Harper said nightspots in Albury were busy on Sunday night with a sense of optimism in the air about the pending reopening.

"It was great. There were lots of people out and about," she said.

"There was a whole new energy to the two cities."

Accommodation also filled fast in Wodonga as people flocked to the border so they could cross at the first possible moment.

Ms Harper said the two cities were now looking forward to a busy summer of tourism with Lake Hume full, raising hopes of an economic recovery.

"People are just wanting to get out and get fresh air and get into the regions."

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