Please Gladys……. Is it Yes or No?

There was too much at stake to assume that collecting our repaired van was a reasonable travel excuse and so, with the threat of huge fines looming, I decided to email the Department of Customer Service as recommended by Service NSW.

Here’s my email:

Are we allowed to travel to collect our repaired vehicle?

Four weeks ago, on the 19th of July, we were returning to Cobar, where my husband is completing a 4-year employment tenure, from our home on the mid north coast. With a large amount of furniture to move between the two properties, we were driving a car each (a ute and a van).

When our van broke down at Jerry’s Plains the NRMA, in conversation with our VW mechanic, agreed that it possibly needed a new engine and organised for it to be taken back to the mechanic on the coast while we continued in the ute, plus a hire car, to Cobar. I should point out that there are no VW mechanics in Cobar and the closest is in Dubbo(600 km round trip). Plus our mechanic advised that he already had and could install a reconditioned engine.

The engine installation was completed two weeks ago on the 3rd of August and, with no Covid restrictions in Cobar or on the mid north coast, we planned to take advantage of four consecutive Rest days to drive back and pick it up this Thursday. However, the state has now gone into lockdown.

After the installation, the mechanic delivered the van to our carport where it’s been sitting ever since and while I’m not overly concerned about the furniture, clothing, medications (I’ve bought more online) etc or a flat battery I am concerned that it’s quite visible to passers-by and, with all the blinds drawn, all day every day, it’s also quite obvious that no one is home.

I understand that it’s impossible to clarify every rule and restriction and we are both unsure whether collecting the van is a “reasonable excuse”. However, if the state lockdown continues, there’s a real risk that our van will become a target for thieves.

I’d really appreciate some advice because, like everyone else, we don’t want to make an uninformed choice and be faced with a huge fine, especially after just paying more than $9,000 to install a reconditioned engine.

Regards, Kaye Matthews

And here’s their reply:

Dear Kaye,

Thankyou for contacting the Department of Customer Service. The best source of information about the COVID restrictions and rules is available at
For more information about specific areas please see the websites linked below:
Regional and rural NSW rules

Greater Sydney rules

Local government areas of concern

Legislation and penalties

The rules summary tables on the common questions

I have also forwarded your email to the COVID customer care team at Service NSW for response.

The COVID customer care team is experiencing a high number of enquiries so there may be a delay in responding to you about this matter.

They can be contacted directly on 13 77 88.

Department of Customer Service

Now it seems to me that a question like Are we allowed to travel to collect our repaired vehicle? would simply require a Yes / No answer and so it was a surprise to receive a list of web sites and, even more surprising when, after reading them all, I realised that none of them related to my question.

Alas, it was time to ring the 13 number.

I must admit that the customer representative was quite pleasant and listened attentively as I basically read her my email and asked, again, whether travelling to collect our repaired van was a reasonable excuse. Everything was going smoothly- after checking with her colleagues she was able to state that Yes, travelling to pick up the van was a reasonable excuse – until I naively asked, “Can I have that in writing?” at which stage, the wheels promptly and without warning fell off.

Apparently no one wants to be held responsible for handing out incorrect advice because the best she could suggest was to carry the repair invoice plus a note from the mechanic to the effect that our van had broken down hundreds of kilometres from Cobar…….. but after that, we were on our own.

Today, six days after my email, I did, in fact, receive a reply – albeit unsigned:

(Subject:Re: Request to withdraw your application [ ref:_00D4a8aWL._5004a4Nj4Q:ref ])

Hi Kaye

Thankyou for your enquiry with Service NSW in relation to reasonable reasons for Travelling in regional NSW with the restrictions I have attached a link to the SNSW website for your reference

Kind regards
Service NSW

Of course, the suggested web page said absolutely nothing about whether collecting our van was a reasonable excuse to travel and I was none the wiser so, in one final effort to obtain clarity, I’ve just fired off this reply:

Dear Sir / Madam

I have just read the web page that you suggested and it says nothing helpful about collecting our car, which broke down more than a month ago, hundreds of kilometres from our residence in outback NSW.

I’ve waited for 6 days for you to respond with an answer to my question, namely, Is this a reasonable excuse to bring our repaired van home? Please don’t close this application without answering my question. I just need an answer – either Yes we can bring our van home, now that it has been repaired or No, we are not allowed to bring our van home and it will have to sit unsecured for the duration of the lockdown. We are both fully vaccinated and are prepared to make the trip in the shortest possible time.

If you don’t know the answer, I have no idea whom to ask.

Regards, Kaye Matthews

Sadly, in the meantime, I’m not holding my breath. It seems that no one, even Service NSW, is prepared to give advice nor to put their name to that advice, in case it’s wrong. It really begs the question, ‘Why even have a Customer Service department?’

More importantly, after making me wait six days and then failing to answer my question, why on earth would they assume that I’d be happy to withdraw that question?’ (“Request to withdraw your application”)

PS And in case you’re wondering, No I didn’t add those question marks in Elle’s reply.

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