Byron Bay goes into lockdown over the coronavirus (COVID-19) which has affected small business in the region.
Byron Bay goes into lockdown over the coronavirus (COVID-19) which has affected small business in the region.

Council brings in raft of changes due to COVID-19 pandemic

A CAMPAIGN encouraging people to stay at home and a handful of other measures have been unanimously supported by Byron Shire Council.

An urgency motion raised under the Mayoral Minute was the first matter to be discussed during the council’s ordinary meeting today.

In another measure to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council is live-streaming its meeting for the first time and implemented changed to public access from a vote at last week’s planning meeting.

But mayor Simon Richardson brought a raft of other changes before today’s meeting, built upon by his colleagues.

Public safety and health measures include:

  • A “Byron Stay Home campaign
  • A three-month ban on the use of public spaces for busking or other activity within the definition. This includes tarot card and palm readers, fortune tellers, the display of demonstration items with the implication they’re available for sale
  • Closures to the Main Beach and Clarkes Beach carparks for three months
  • Promotion of social distancing practices, particularly in commonly used areas such as Apex Park
  • Authority to close more public spaces if social distancing guidelines aren’t followed
  • Calls for the NSW Premier to reciprocate Queensland’s border closure to stem the influx of Queensland visitors to the Byron Shire
  • Calls for the NSW and Queensland premiers to stop the use of long-distance bus services to minimise the migration of people from cities to regional areas

Council operations:

  • Suspension of footpath dining and associated fees for three months (to be reviewed after that time)
  • Closure of all halls and sporting centres for three months
  • Decrease opening hours of the council’s customer service front desk and investigate alternate service methods, including online
  • Reviews of current fees and charges to Byron Bay Community Centre for the management and operation of the homeless shower and services provided at the Girl Guides Hall

Regarding the visitor economy:

  • The council will write to backpacker hostels supporting the instructions by police to ensure COVID-19 related information is readily shared and social gatherings are minimised.
  • The council will support the transition of backpacker workers currently in the Byron Shire to agricultural areas for much-needed seasonal employment.
  • Those marketing a Byron property, such as those on Airbnb or Stayz, as an attractive place to self-isolate, will be asked to remove that messaging.
  • The council will support the Federal Government recommendations not to travel for non-essential reasons.
  • “Non-essential” bookings at council-owned caravan parks will be cancelled. Residents, business travellers, those with no fixed address and those in transit to permanent residence will be classed under “essential” bookings.

Broader community resilience:

  • The council will promote its Debt Management and Financial Hardship Assistance Policy and will amend it to include businesses affected by the pandemic
  • Cashless payments will be encouraged and the related surcharge will be suspended
  • Hall booking cancellation fees will be waived.
  • The council will explore the feasibility of freezing fees and charges

The meeting heard holiday accommodation occupancy rates, usually about 80 to 90 per cent, would be closer to 20 per cent this year.

The mayor will also be enabled to work with staff to update measures quickly as required.

More to come.

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