COVID-19 Our local Council response for our local community

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Byron Shire Council will hold its Ordinary Meeting this Thursday, 26 March, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the community to be front-of-mind for Councillors.

Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, has put a Mayoral Minute on the agenda, with a series of recommendations focusing on what Council can do in this difficult and challenging time.

“I would like to take this opportunity to assure the community that Council is well-prepared and will continue its emergency response with a strong focus on the delivery of essential services for the community including water, sewer and infrastructure during the challenges we are facing,” Mayor Richardson said.

“We are continuing with our road building and infrastructure maintenance program, along with the other services we provide such as slashing.

“Our Health and Safety team has been visiting food premises in the Shire to check in and see how people are going and it is very sobering as the impacts and short term outlook is stormy at best.

“Councillors, staff and myself all met Monday afternoon to work through a series of measures to introduce that are focused on the health, safety and well-being of the community.

“We all spoke with one voice for the need to implement the measures outlined. These will be formally endorsed at the Council meeting on Thursday.

“But I stress it is so important for people to realise that they need to keep checking in with NSW Health for the latest information on the COVID-19 crisis as the NSW and Australian Governments are leading the state and national response,” he said.

Measures that will be considered by Council at the Ordinary Meeting on 26 March as part of the Mayoral Minute include:

Regarding Public Health and Safety generally –

• Carpark closures at Main Beach and Clarkes Beach for three months.

• Temporarily suspending busking licences and all activities such as tarot cards, fortune readers etc, for three months.

• Ask the NSW Premier to reciprocate the closure of the QLD-NSW border to stem the flow of people from Queensland visiting the Byron Shire.

• Establish and install clear signage promoting effective social distancing, for the sake of the whole community.

• Promote social distancing practises especially in common use spaces such as Apex Park (and close these spaces if the protocols aren’t adhered to).

Regarding Council Operations –

• Suspend footpath dining for three months with Council also suspending the fees for these businesses.

• Close all halls and sporting centres for 3 months, and waive all cancellation fees incurred as a result and review closure after that time.

• Decrease opening hours of the customer service front desk at Council’s Mullumbimby Offices and provide and promote online services.

• Review the current fees and charges to the Byron Bay Community Centre for the management and operation of the homeless shower and services provided by the Girl Guides Hall.

Regarding the Visitor Economy (tourism) –

• Acknowledge the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on the Visitor Economy, by far the largest economic driver and employer in the Byron Shire, with traditional occupancy rates of 80-90% over the Easter and April period set to drop to approximately 20%.

• Note with great concern the promotion of Byron Shire by AirBnB, Stayz and other platforms, as an attractive place to ‘self-isolate’. Seek support for removal of this promotional messaging. That this concern is conveyed to Federal and NSW Ministers for Tourism.

• Write to owners of backpacker hostels supporting the instructions by police for ensuring information on COVID 19 are readily shared so that social gatherings are minimised and social distancing practised.

• Support the transition of backpackers to other areas such as agricultural, for much needed seasonal employment.

• Support non-essential travel guidance by creating a promotion/messaging that “Byron loves visitors but please not now”.

Regarding the wider resilience of the community –

• Support the expansion of current farmers markets to other days and the establishment of new food share/market /swap activities if requested.

• Note the current draft Byron Shire Community Gardens policy soon to be placed on exhibition – calls for expressions of interest/proposals for the establishment of new community gardens.

• Note the current lack of delivery services of supermarket and other items and seek staff to review opportunities for our staff to provide delivery services to our most vulnerable.

• Support the use of certain locations (on Council-owned and/or managed land) for Class-2 mobile vendors to operate weekly subject to a formal booking through Council. Some possible locations that have been identified for consideration in the Commercial Activities on Road Reserves Policy are as follows:

o Wategos Beach (1 location)

o Denning Park (1 location)

o Brunswick Heads (2 locations)

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