Victorian and New South Wales mayors and CEOs along both sides of the Murray River from Corryong to Wentworth have joined forces in an unprecedented show of strength to convince the NSW Government to ease its latest tough border restrictions.
Since the new public health orders came into effect, all 14 councils said they had received messages, emails and phone calls from residents who could no longer get to work or open their businesses, with many already closing their doors.
Amid fears of a devastating economic impact on border communities that have always lived and worked closely together, the border leaders have combined to tell the NSW Government that the creation of a border zone now restricted effectively to a 2km strip on either side of the river is unacceptable and unsustainable.
Greater Hume Mayor, Heather Wilton said the harsh restrictions were creating stress and anxiety for workers, businesses and families, some of whom were facing enormous financial and emotional hardship because of the narrow permit zone along the border.
“Our request to the NSW Government is simple: please allow border community workers on both sides of the border to do their jobs.
“While we understand that both governments are working to restrict the spread of COVID-19, it should be made clear that there are only a handful of active cases of the virus in the border communities yet people living along the Murray River are being heavily penalised through no fault of their own.”
Mayor Wilton said all 14 councils had taken the historic step of uniting in a collective call for the NSW Premier and Health Minister to amend the order to allow more workers and business owners to cross the border, travel directly to their workplaces, and travel directly back to their homes each day.
“The narrow border strip system is causing a growing amount of harm to our communities as each day passes, so we’re urging the government to consult with us, so we can save our economies while also ensuring we’re all working together to minimize the risk of the virus spreading.”
The councils calling for the change are: Albury, Berrigan, Campaspe, Federation, Gannawarra, Greater Hume, Indigo, Mildura, Moira, Murray River, Swan Hill, Towong, Wentworth and Wodonga.
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City of Darwin’s myDarwin discount voucher program has proved an overwhelming success, with more than 300 local businesses benefitting from the post COVID-19 recovery initiative.
More than 25,000 people registered on the online platform and more than 7200 discount vouchers were redeemed in the first week alone, with customers spending an average $75 to redeem their discounts.
The myDarwin project, an economic stimulus initiative by the City of Darwin, was designed to encourage frequent visits and spending by customers at locally owned small and medium businesses post the COVID-19 restrictions.
More than $2 million dollars was spent at local businesses in conjunction with the myDarwin vouchers, exceeding all expectations.
General Manager Innovation, Growth and Development, Josh Sattler said City of Darwin was delighted with the program’s success. “This is the first time a local government in Australia has launched this type of program and I’m proud we have taken the lead to support our community at this time.”
The initiative was funded by $300,000 allocated from Council’s parking reserves, and aimed at supporting retail, hospitality and tourism businesses across Darwin.
Sattler said Darwin had been lucky to come out of the pandemic lockdown early but Council identified a need to come up with an incentive to ‘break the isolation hibernation’, encouraging people back onto the street and into the shops and cafes.
He explained the current myDarwin discount voucher program lasted until the funding pool was used up but the platform’s value is that it can be reactivated in the future, for example after a severe cyclone.
The project has sparked interest from other councils across Australia and New Zealand.
Lord Mayor, Kon Vatskalis, said, “We know our local businesses support local jobs so it’s more important than ever that we all work together as a city to rise from this challenge.
Customers who registered receive $40 worth of myDarwin discounts each day to spend at local small and medium retail, hospitality and tourism businesses.
Industries benefitting the most from the program were food and beverage, sport and camping, hairdressing and beauty.
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*Copy supplied by TranEx Roads & Traffic