Gypsum business in Rainbow reopens after losing income amid COVID lockdown confusion | Ralph-Lauren

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A privately owned gypsum pit operator in Rainbow has become a flashpoint for confusion around Victoria’s five-day lockdown restrictions.

Emma Lester, from Albacutya Gypsum, said she and partner Paul were told by a local police officer they could not operate under the state’s stage-four lockdown.

The closure early this morning sparked outrage among the farming community, with some trucks en route to the gypsum pits at the time.

“We were pretty shocked because we operated all of last year,” Ms Lester said.

“Trucks were travelling overnight to get here; it’s not just local customers.

“There were a lot of phone calls and messages last night to people we thought might be able to help us, so we were pulling hard to see whether we could open, because it just didn’t seem right to us.

“I hope we’ll find out why it happened, but it’s not great that things are open to interpretation.”

$20k in lost income

The pit later reopened, but Ms Lester estimated the delay and confusion saw the business miss out on loading 40 trucks, resulting in $20,000 of lost income.

She said she had heard other pits across Victoria were allowed to operate during the lockdown.

Under the restrictions announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday, primary industries are essential services if they are needed to ensure an adequate supply of food to, and care of, animals and crops.

Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Council member Ryan Milgate, of Minyip, said this confusion had come during peak gypsum carting season.

“I think all along, everyone has been under the understanding that agriculture is an essential service and through the nature of what we do, we are quite isolated anyway,” he said.

“I think it’s caused a lot of confusion and there was a lot of negative sentiment out there already, rightly or wrongly.

“To have common sense prevail this morning has been really good to see.”

A Victoria Police spokesperson said it did not set the guidelines as to whether businesses may remain open or not.

The ABC has contacted the DHHS for comment.

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