COVID-19 update – Council responses 26 March

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Byron Shire Council Councillors today agreed to implement and investigate a number of local initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Simon Richardson, said Councillors unanimously supported his Mayoral Minute, with the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in the community the priority for Council at this challenging time.

“Staff have been working incredibly hard responding to the COVID-19 crisis and I would like to reiterate and assure the community that Council’s focus will continue to be on the delivery of essential services such as water, sewer and infrastructure maintenance,” Mayor Richardson said.

“Our regular works program is continuing, slashing is being done and the planning team is assessing and working on DAs.

“This does not mean that we can’t do more and we are united and determined to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can at a local level to support our community – businesses and individuals,” he said.

Some of the measures adopted today were:

Public Safety and Health

  • Adopt a ‘Byron Stay Home’ campaign in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This campaign to inform council’s decision-making, services and activities. The hashtag #ByronStayHome (or something similar) to be used in all Council public announcements and promoted through social media platforms.
  • A three month ban on the use of public spaces for busking or other activity within the definition, including: tarot cards and palm readers, fortune readers, or the display or demonstration of items, particularly multiples of items, with an implication that they are available for sale or otherwise in exchange for money.
  • Closure of the Main Beach and Clarkes Beach carparks for three months.
  • Call upon the Premier of NSW to reciprocate the closure of the QLD-NSW border to stem the influx of those from Queensland visiting Byron Shire.
  • Call upon the Premiers of NSW and QLD to stop the use of long distance bus services to minimise the migration of people from cities to regional areas.
  • Council’s Environmental Health Officers to continue to guide and support food and grocery outlets in implementing all recommended COVID-19 hygiene strategies.

Council operations:

  • Suspension of footpath dining and associated fees for three months.
  • Reduced face-to-face hours af the customer service front desk but remaining open for telephone and electronic enquiries.
  • Review the current fees and charges to the Byron Bay Community Centre for the management and operation of the homeless shower and services provided at the Girl Guides Hall.

Visitor Economy

  • Acknowledge the dramatic impact of COVID 19 on the Visitor Economy, the largest economic driver and employer in Byron Shire, with traditional occupancy rates of 80-90% over the Easter and April period set to drop to approximately 20%.
  • Write to owners of backpacker hostels supporting the instructions by police for ensuring information on COVID 19 is readily shared and social gatherings are minimised and social distancing actively practised.
  • Support the swift transition of backpacker workers currently in Byron Shire to agriculture areas for much needed seasonal employment and that Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Officer explore opportunities to connect backpackers seeking work with farmers seeking workers
  • Note with great concern and disappointment the recent promotion of Byron Shire as an attractive place to ‘self isolate’ by Air Bnb and other STHL properties and seek the support from Air BnB and Stayz and other platforms to remove this promotional messaging. That this concern also be conveyed to the Federal and NSW Ministers of Tourism.
  • Support the Federal Government recommendation to not travel for non-essential reasons as Byron Shire does not need nor wish to receive visitors at this time.

Supporting the wider resilience of the community

  • Support the expansion of current regular farmers markets to other days and the establishment of new food share/market/swap activities if requested.
  • 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:
    • Wategos Beach (1 location)
    • Dening Park (1 location)
    • Brunswick Heads (2 locations).

Supporting individuals and businesses who may be experiencing hardship

  • Promote Council’s Debt Management and Financial Hardship Assistance Policy and support people who are having difficulty paying to make payment arrangements under this policy.
  • Amend the Debt Management and Financial Hardship Assistance Policy to include application to businesses in Byron Shire for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Explore the feasibility of a ‘freeze’ of fees and charges for next financial year.

Child Care Services

  • All families currently enrolled in Council’s Children’s Services including long day care services and Outside of School Hour Care Service (OSHC) be granted a 50% reduction in gap fees for services effective from 23 March 2020 for a 1 month period, regardless of whether their child/ren is attending.

“Some of these measures will be effective immediately, and others will be implemented and actioned in coming days,” Mayor Richardson said.

“I continue to urge people to keep abreast of the latest information on the COVID-19 crisis by checking with NSW Health,” he said.

For Council-related business such as closures and updates on services people should continue to check our website which is being updated as information comes to hand.

“My plea is for people to be compassionate and kind and for us all to play our part in stopping the spread of this terrible disease,” Mayor Richardson said.

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