Council is again urging the State Government to reclassify non-urban areas of Yarra Ranges as regional, with rural areas caught up in the metropolitan Melbourne lockdown.
Councillors endorsed a motion at their Tuesday, 8 September meeting, calling on the State Government to reclassify the Ryrie and O’Shannassy Wards – and rural communities in the Chandler Ward – as regional and therefore be excluded from Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions.
Ryrie Ward Councillor, Fiona McAllister, said that regional areas were caught up in the metropolitan Melbourne region’s lockdown because of Yarra Ranges’ status as an interface Council.
“We have one of the most unique Council areas in the state, due to our mix of urban areas, the hills in the Dandenong Ranges and the regional towns in the Yarra Valley, and this is something we’re proud of,” Cr McAllister said.
“Unfortunately, it also means that our regional areas have been unfairly swept into the metropolitan classification for COVID-19 restrictions.
“Over the year, we have consistently had very low case numbers in the Yarra Valley, which are more reflective of regional Victoria rates.
“Our towns are isolated from Melbourne and we remain a rural community with a low-risk lifestyle, so we’re hoping the Premier actions our request swiftly.”
O’Shannassy Ward Councillor, Jim Child, said that while the Stage 4 restrictions were suitable for urban areas, they didn’t suit outer regions like the Upper Yarra.
“The Yarra Ranges being a metropolitan Melbourne Council area makes sense only if you’re in our suburban areas of Mooroolbark, Lilydale, Chirnside or Kilsyth – Warburton, Millgrove and our outer areas are about as far from metropolitan as you can get,” Cr Child said.
“We don’t have the access to services, public transport or the population density in O’Shannassy, Ryrie or Chandler that our metropolitan neighbours do, and while we understand the blanket approach by the State Government to enforce restrictions, our regional areas have been suffering as a result.
“Being reclassified as regional Victoria wouldn’t end restrictions in our wards, but it would provide some much-needed relief for our community members, acknowledging our low transmission rates and rural setting.
Chandler Ward Councillor, Tony Stevenson, said that agriculture businesses, local tradespeople and businesses across Yarra Ranges’ regional areas had been badly impacted by Stage 4 restrictions.
“The last six weeks haven’t been easy for anyone in Victoria – we’ve seen and heard of businesses struggling to make ends meet, mental health calls increasing and people doing it tough in every corner of the metropolitan Melbourne area,” Cr Stevenson said.
“Unfortunately, because of our metropolitan Melbourne classification, our agricultural businesses, local tradespeople and other businesses have been particularly impacted.
“Our local producers compete with businesses in the regional Victoria bubble, which are currently subject to fewer restrictions on operating, making it difficult for our businesses to bring food to the table or to re-enter the market when Stage 4 restrictions ease.
“There has been a great level of support from the State and Federal Government to help us navigate lockdown, of course, but having the regional parts of Yarra Ranges under the same lockdown rules as the inner city is wearing our communities thin.
“Between the regional make-up of our outer towns and our low case rate through the pandemic, we hope that the State Government earnestly considers our proposal.”