I am sure everyone in our shire is overjoyed by the latest announcement from our Premier. Lockdown in our shire ends from 11.59pm 9 September, and we will be able to roam freely again throughout regional Victoria (Melbourne excluded).
Coincidentally, today is RUOK day, a national day organised by the suicide prevention charity of the same name, that encourages us all to look for signs of mental distress in our friends, family, and colleagues. There are a lot of reasons including the obvious toll the pandemic is having on our lives and livelihood that could cause us distress, particularly isolation during lockdowns. One of the new easings in restrictions is about public gatherings; we can now have catch ups in public in groups of up to 10 people. I encourage you to use this new change to gatherings to organise a social event with your ten ‘nearest and dearest’ and give each other a much needed boost. Family and friends still under lockdown conditions would certainly appreciate a check in call for sure. Checking in on each other is something we should not just save for R U OK Day awareness day but implement into our daily lives as a priority. There are tips on how you can do this considerately at www.ruok.org.au
At council, we are in the middle of a busy reporting season with our annual report due for distribution at the end of this month. In the meantime, we need to let you know that the face to face community engagement sessions we had planned for this weekend Saturday 11 September are now cancelled due to Coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings. In lieu of in person engagement, we will now be conducting virtual community engagement sessions and you can participate in these by going to our Financial Plan Have Your Say Page www.ngshire.vic.gov.au/finplan21 and clicking on the link to join the Teams Webinar. If you do not have internet access and you wish to join these consultations via telephone, you can call customer service on 03 5358 8700 for the details.
You can also contribute to our Financial Plan community engagement by filling in the online survey on our website (link above): submissions close Wednesday 22 September. Again, if you do not have internet access and would still like to participate in the survey, please call customer service on 03 5358 8700 for a paper copy.
With regards to Covid-19 vaccination uptake in our shire, it is very pleasing to see statistics released this week which indicates that we are coming 17thstatewide for first doses of the vaccine; this is a fantastic effort and I look forward to seeing us climb higher on that ladder. I commend our local doctors and health agencies for what has been a very arduous year managing this vaccination program. Remember, the Coronavirus vaccine is your best defence against this disease and with cases continuing to rise in Melbourne and Greater Shepparton currently, we should do our utmost to prevent it from affecting our shire community.
You will be happy to learn too that several projects are progressing as planned with minimal delays – both Lord Nelson Park multipurpose sporting pavilion and the new netball courts at North Park are on schedule at this point in time. Great Western Oval’s lighting works will commence shortly once the tender process is complete. There are lots of other projects in the pipeline which we will be able to announce once we have confirmation of their funding.
One other thing I wish to raise, and that I know you are all very passionate about, is our need for better internet and mobile connectivity. The State Government is conducting a survey on internet and mobile connectivity requirements and I encourage you to use this opportunity to make your voice heard. The survey can be accessed at engage.vic.gov.au/connecting-victoria
and is closing on Monday 20 September.
That’s it for now. I hope to see many of you out and about under the new restrictions and online during our virtual Financial Plan consultations next week.
Cr Murray Emerson
Northern Grampians Shire Council Mayor