HELPING local people, businesses and industries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prosper in the future is the focus of a COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan recently endorsed by Coffs Harbour City Council.
Council prepared the COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan to detail the arrangements, roles, responsibilities, recovery objectives and strategies required to ensure a coordinated recovery from the pandemic within the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area.
The Plan outlines ways that Council will support residents, communities and businesses to ensure there is a strong foundation for long term recovery.
“At a local level, it is estimated that more than 1,000 people have lost jobs, with productivity of all economic sectors being impacted,” a Council report on the Plan stated.
The Plan proposes that Council invests in a $2 million Community Resilience Program over the next four years, and for this Program to be supported by two new ‘Community Resilience Officer’ positions.
The Program will invest in a variety of local events, business collaboration and community connection opportunities, and will be co-designed and co-delivered in conjunction with local business chambers and community organisations.
In addition to the Community Resilience Program, Council will continue to lobby and advocate for funding to support response and recovery efforts by all levels of government.
Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight said the Plan, “Sets the framework for the challenges that we face and the directions that Council are taking in response.”
“We have been very aware from the start of the crisis that planning for the recovery is the key to seeing our community emerge stronger than ever in the long run,” Cr Knight said.
Coffs Harbour City Council General Manager Steve McGrath said, “From the onset of the pandemic Council has closely monitored the situation and moved quickly to identify and implement opportunities to reduce immediate impacts.
“Through a phased approach, the Plan provides a clear pathway of initiatives that will help support individuals and households, the community as a whole, as well as businesses and industries,” Mr McGrath said.
The Plan states that more than 70% of cultural organisations have been forced to cancel events or programs in the Coffs Harbour area as a result of the pandemic, around 76% of cultural industry organisations in the Coffs Harbour area have lost revenue associated with sponsorship, private donations or government, and more than 3,500 businesses in the Coffs Harbour area have accessed the JobKeeper program.
“The impacts of the pandemic have been felt heavily by Council, with reduced revenue through areas such as tourist parks and the airport being in addition to increased costs to operate public facilities,” the Plan states.
The Plan identifies key directions for Council’s response and recovery process which include working with State and Federal Governments to ensure each level is best responding within their own means, recognising and responding to community members most in need, investing and refocusing Council’s resources in line with community and business needs, and positioning and activating key projects to facilitate investment locally.
Initiatives outlined in the Plan include using Council programs, facilities and open spaces to encourage social connection and education opportunities, continuing support for financial hardship arising from COVID-19 in relation to Council services, advocating for economic and social support from State and Federal Government, expanding Council’s social support programs with a focus on digital access and literacy, helping local businesses by promoting the ‘buy local’ message to the community, growing Council’s tourism and event attraction initiatives, and bringing forward infrastructure works with the potential to assist local employment.
At Council’s latest meeting on Thursday 10 December, councillors unanimously voted to endorse the COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan to mitigate and recover from the effects of COVID-19, and consider the allocation of $180,000 at Council’s next quarterly budget review to commence implementation of the Community Resilience Program within the COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan.
By Emma DARBIN