Yarra Ranges Council is urging people planning a trip to its region during the lockdown period to reconsider their plans, in an effort to protect the health and wellbeing of local communities.
While Yarra Ranges has been included as a metropolitan council as part of the State Government’s recent lockdown orders, there are concerns that the restriction of travel for residents in Metropolitan Melbourne areas may result in an increase in visitation to popular recreation sites, including regional areas of the municipality.
Yarra Ranges Mayor Richard Higgins said while Council acknowledged the importance and appropriateness of the State Government’s lockdown actions, he was concerned about the entire municipality being considered a metropolitan area.
“While the rules and intention of restrictions is to stop the spread, the classification of all townships in Yarra Ranges as metropolitian Melbourne may be interpreted as supporting visitation to the area by those in other parts of metropolitan Melbourne,” Cr Higgins said.
“Yarra Ranges is a destination Council, and while we would normally be encouraging people from other areas to come and experience the wonderful places our region has to offer, in the current environment we are urging people who do not live in Yarra Ranges to follow the lockdown requirements and stay at home.”
Cr Higgins said Council was also concerned more broadly around the classification which captured all townships in Yarra Ranges, including those which were more appropriately described as regional.
“While we do have a large urban population, the majority of our land mass covers regional areas, and our Covid-19 infection rates are very low compared with other parts of Metropolitan Melbourne,” he said.
Cr Higgins expressed grave concern for local businesses and the impact a metropolitan classification could have on their ability to stay afloat.
“We know many businesses had only just opened up again for table service, and had ordered plenty of food and other supplies to cater for advanced bookings that local people had made prior to this lockdown being announced,” he said.
“Council would welcome a conversation with the State Government in an effort to highlight the diverse mix of urban and regional areas within the Yarra ranges, and to illustrate the limitations of using local government areas as a tool to determine lockdown zones.
“We ask the State Government to use the statistics available on active cases and review its inclusion in stage 3 restrictions.”
Cr Higgins said the mental health and wellbeing of businesses and the community was a growing concern that was expected to amplify as a result of the lockdown period.
“Latest research is painting a grim picture for our local economy, with predictions of in excess of 6000 job losses and a 24 per cent fall in economic output,” he said.
“The prolonged impact this is likely to have on mental health and wellbeing is significant, and we are seeking government assistance to provide much needed financial and psychological support for our communities.”
Cr Higgins encouraged the Yarra Ranges community to adhere to the lockdown restrictions currently in place to help slow the spread of Covid-19 infection over the coming weeks.
“Yarra Ranges is strong and vibrant community, and I’m sure everyone will be doing everything they can to play their part in stopping the spread of this virus.”
“Please remember there are only four reasons for you to leave your home: shopping for food and essential items, medical care and caregiving, exercise, and work or study if you can’t do it from home.
“If you do need to leave your house, please remember to take care of each other by practising good hygiene and physical distancing.
“I know we have a long six weeks ahead, but I’m confident we will all get through this.”