The northern NSW police chief has condemned the actions of a Sydney tree lopping company that was fined $33,000 for lying on a permit to enter regional NSW and having employees door-knock for work at Lake Macquarie in the NSW Hunter Valley this week.
The fines, issued to seven people in the business, were handed out on Thursday afternoon.
It came as a separate investigation continued into another Sydney company, which the Newcastle Heraldthis week reported had also allegedly sent workers door-to-door looking for jobs in the Hunter before multiple staff members tested positive to COVID-19.
Thursday's penalties, for breaching coronavirus public health orders that are in place to limit the chance of COVID-19 spreading further into regional areas, came as a result of a tip-off to Crime Stoppers from a member of the community.
The owners of the company were fined $5000 for giving false information to Service NSW in order to get a permit to travel out of Greater Sydney for work.
One of the co-owners did not have a permit to leave Greater Sydney and five of the employees had not had a COVID-19 test as is required by the public health orders.
They were men aged between 25 and 61 years old.
It is understood the workers came from a range of places across Sydney. Police have been told that the men were working in the Lake Macquarie area on week days and going back to Sydney - including local government areas of concern - on weekends.
"Whilst everyone understands it's tough times at the moment, the problem is that this is the exact way this virus gets spread," Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna told the Newcastle Herald.
"It's so dangerous to come up from areas of concern, such as Sydney, to our regional areas where we really are fighting a tough battle and we're going really well.
"People who come up to these areas to exploit the health orders, purposely doing the wrong thing, will be detected and we will take appropriate action."
It is unclear how long the Sydney workers had been in the Lake Macquarie area.
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Assistant Commissioner McKenna said the situation appeared "scarily similar" to the separate accusations against the other company outlined in the Herald earlier this week - the investigations into those allegations are ongoing.
"We don't know who has got COVID and who hasn't," he said.
"There's a reason we're in lockdown at the moment. There's a reason you're only allowed to travel out of [Greater Sydney] if you fulfill certain criteria.
"If people are silly enough to take that risk, they will be found out and severely fined."
The Newcastle Herald reported in recent days that up to four tree lopping companies from Sydney were door-knocking in the Lake Macquarie and Newcastle areas in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, 72 fines for breaches to the coronavirus public health orders were issued across the four Hunter region police commands in the 24 hours to 12.01am on Thursday.
Twenty-five were handed out in the Port Stephens-Hunter district, which includes Maitland, Raymond Terrace and the Port Stephens area, while 19 were issued in Newcastle.
Fifteen people were fined in the Hunter Valley police area, which includes Cessnock, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Scone, and 13 at Lake Macquarie.