Port Stephens-Hunter police will be on the streets educating people about COVID-19 public health orders, but warn there will be no tolerance for people blatantly breaking the rules.
The NSW Government introduced new rules earlier this week which forbid people from gathering in groups larger than two or leaving the home for non-essential reasons in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Essential reasons include buying food or other goods and services, work, education, exercise and medical or caring reasons.
Penalties for an individual who fails to comply are six months jail or a fine of up to $11,000 (or both), plus a further $5500 fine each day the offence continues.
The new rulings have caused some confusion in the community as to what is essential and what is punishable.
But Port Stephens-Hunter district commander Superintendent Chad Gillies said police were primarily trying to educate and warn people about safety relating to the virus and said officers would be taking a "balanced approach" to the rules.
"We're updating police daily in regard to updates on new legislation," he said.
"Our expectation is that police will use a balanced approach and work with the community. It's about educating and warning people to make sure they comply.
"Most people do the right thing. The vast majority are decent, hardworking people.
"But there is a clear expectation that anyone deliberately flouting the laws will be dealt with appropriately."
Supt Gillies said with Easter coming up, the main message to people in the district is that going away to areas like Port Stephens for a holiday or to go to the beach are not reasons for essential travel.
"Please, stay home for the Long Weekend," he said.
"We're going to be really firm on anyone deliberately breaching those public health orders."
Supt Gillies said police would be out and about in the CBD, at shopping centres and recreational areas enforcing the strategies about social distancing.
Police will also be doing home checks on people in mandatory quarantine.
NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said police would continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the wider community.
"I have said time and time again that one of the most important powers police have is the power of discretion," he said.
"Additional powers have been introduced with good reason and I encourage my officers to use them in the spirit in which they were intended - to keep the people of NSW safe throughout this crisis."
Supt Gillies said it was also the responsibility of local police to help vulnerable residents in the community connect with necessary services while the public health orders are in place.
"We're tapping into local services to ensure vulnerable people such as the elderly, people with disabilities and the homeless can get the support they need," he said.
"We want to make sure we're not leaving gaps for service."
Commissioner Fuller said on Thursday that the social distancing rules would be in place across NSW for at least 90 days.
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.