Rates relief, free parking part of council’s COVID-19 plan
REDUCED rates and free parking were among measures introduced today by Whitsunday Regional Council as part of a COVID-19 recovery package.
The package included more than half a million in concessions for residents, tourism operators and small businesses.
As part of the package, all council controlled paid parking will be free of charge until 10 August 2020.
Council estimated this would save residents and visitors $420,000 which could be redirected to support local businesses.
Council will also advocate to state and federal government for a six-month rates relief package that would “provide essential financial hardship relief to all council’s ratepayers.”
An additional incentive program will be introduced that provides discounts for residents who pay their rates on time.
Concessions will be made for residents who have been affected by COVID-19 and they will be able to seek arrangements and concessions through the council’s ‘rate relief due to hardship policy’.
Small businesses will also receive relief through a 50 per cent discount on renewal applications under the Food Act 2006.
If these fees have already been paid, council would use the payment as credit toward future fees.
A 50 per cent discount on the renewal of footpath dining fees and trade waste and backflow device licence fees will also be provided, which council estimate combined would save more than $100,000.
The package also outlined several areas where council would lobby for assistance, including a push for $3.6 million in Works for Queensland funding.
This included a $2.4 million tourism industry relief package as well as funding for community events and infrastructure.
Council also indicated it would lobby the government for support to get flights up and running.
This included the push for a financial contribution that matches any government contribution to support to return of flights to the region.
For the tourism industry, a Tourism Kickstart Program would also be introduced in collaboration with Tourism Whitsundays aimed at helping the region compete with other holiday destinations.
The program would involve pushing for $2 million in grant funding assistance from the government as well as negotiations with the tourism industry to develop packages that would include schemes such as stay and fly subsidised packages.
Mayor Andrew Willcox hoped the package would provide all sectors of the community with a much-needed helping hand.
“We have tried to adapt to the fast changing and unique pandemic situation to offer support to the Whitsunday community, including the tourism and business sector,” he said.
“This package builds on measures already implemented by council and its partnership groups in supporting residents and business.
“Council has played a key role in community relief including the support of residents who are in non-mandatory isolation, who may be vulnerable.
“This support has included the coordination of effected residents and businesses toward available relief packages and linking in to local social, community and health support services.
“Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Package includes relief across numerous small business fees and charges including footpath dining and food licencing as well as car parking fees in Airlie Beach.
“Through our ED team, we are also working with the local business community through a targeted business survey to assess the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 to ensure future support is provided where it is needed most during recovery.
“Council faces key business challenges in delivering essential services and I have already held positive talks with both Federal and State governments is advocating for funding assistance packages to help lead our region’s recovery.”