have agreed to a series of immediate measures to help local businesses and the
community cope with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, with further
announcements still to come.
Mayor Stephanie Asher’s Notice of Motion during Tuesday night’s council meeting
won unanimous support, and included the following initiatives:
- Development of a
Council COVID-19 financial hardship policy including consideration of rates;
- Waiver of
rent/fees for community and sporting groups within City owned land/grounds and
buildings for six months from 1 March 2020;
- Reduction of rent
by 50 per cent for eligible commercial tenants in City buildings or on City
land for six months from 1 March 2020;
- Refund of
Alfresco Dining permit fees for 12 months;
- Refund of A frame
permit fees for 12 months;
- Refund of food
premises registration fees for three months of the 2019-20 financial year;
- Refund of health
premises fees for three months of the 2019-20 financial year;
- Development of
Business Support Portal for local businesses;
- Development of
Small Business Expert Support Program utilising local businesses;
- Geelong Business
Concierge Service Expansion to support business program development; and
- Free casual on
and off street parking in the Geelong CBD until 30 June 2020.
The first 10
measures are estimated at more than $1.2 million in value combined, while the
free parking is worth around $2 million based on last year’s data.
These measures will form part of a short-term economic and community support
package to be finalised by April. The parking changes will come into effect as of close of business Wednesday 25 March.
also agreed to the development of a medium to longer-term package to be funded
in the 2020-21 financial year and presented to the council by June.
No ceiling has been set for the size of the either package, with the motion
forecasting the potential for the council to adopt a fiscal policy of deficit
to help fund its support measures.
Mayor Asher’s motion also highlighted the key role of the state and federal
governments in providing economic stimulus and support, making it clear that
the council’s contribution should be designed to supplement larger
contributions from these higher tiers of government.
All 11 councillors will now work with the CEO to develop the two support
Mayor Stephanie Asher:
There will be more to come, but the list of support measures we’ve agreed
on tonight is a good start as we look to support our local businesses and the
community through this incredibly difficult time.
Councillor Anthony Aitken, Chair, Finance portfolio:
The council is really feeling for the businesses and people being hit hard by
this crisis. As a group we’ve agreed to look at all options and do whatever we
can to help. That’s likely to mean we go into deficit in next year’s budget,
but if ever there’s a time to do that it’s now.
We’ll begin work immediately on finalising the two support packages and will
share the details with the community as soon as they’re ready.
This event is the most significant most of us have encountered in our
An important message I want to give our residents is that this council doesn’t
just believe we’re an economy, we believe we’re a community. For that reason
these packages won’t just be about economic assistance, they’ll also be
targeted to help our community.
We need these packages to support our sporting clubs, our senior citizens
clubs, our multicultural groups, our arts and cultural community and our many,
many other small community groups.
The first aim will be to survive this pandemic, and we will then move into
recovery. Because at some point this health crisis will end, but the damage
will take some time to repair.
Please everyone be safe and adhere to the professional health advice that we’re
receiving to isolate as much as possible.
Councillor Eddy Kontelj:
These are unprecedented times
and we need to take unprecedented actions to support our community. We need to
get some really quick wins to try and assist the best that we can. We’re seeing
incredible challenges in the community and in the CBD small businesses,
restaurants and cafes are closing their doors because they can’t welcome people
in. All they can do to make a living is offer takeaway.
For many people, to get that takeaway they need to drive in, and the last thing
those businesses need is for their customers to have to pay for parking and
make it more difficult than it can already be. So I’m pleased about the free
parking measures we’ve put in to support those businesses and also our
In addition, the
free parking will also make things that little bit less stressful for everyone
who is travelling to the CBD at the moment to visit places such as the
hospital, Centrelink, the doctor and essential services. Most important is the
hygiene aspect, by introducing free parking people will no longer need to touch
the meter. This small initiative can assist in stopping the spread of the virus.
relief we are offering in terms of Alfresco Dinning and A frame permit fee
refunds for 12 months will also helpful.
I thank all of those businesses and individuals who have reached out to me
personally for providing their ideas and suggestions. This is a good start, but
there is so much more to do, which we will work hard on in the next several
days so that we can expedite the delivery of the intended packages.