The shutdown of international tourism has hit Bass Coast hard. With more than one in three jobs in our shire directly or indirectly reliant on tourism, more than 1200 local jobs had disappeared by the end of April.
A lot of businesses have shut their doors and some may not open again. Difficult times lie ahead for many people.
So it’s really important that we – the council, businesses and individuals – take advantage of any opportunities that come our way. And believe me, they are already happening.
At the council we’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get our projects shovel ready. We’re working on things that probably weren’t quite ready but we want to push ahead if funding does come our way.
It’s full steam ahead on the $19 million Cowes Cultural Centre. The design process starts next month and construction will start in 2021. We might get some funding there retrospectively. We’re also putting a lot of work into our aquatic strategy, making sure we can take advantage of any funding that’s available for the Phillip Island and Wonthaggi centres.
I’m really proud of the way our community has pulled together during the lockdown. People have looked out for each other, and we’ll need to pull together during the recovery phase.
I say to people, to businesses, clubs and organisations, get yourself into a position where you can take advantage of the opportunities that will be coming.
The council’s Business and Community Resilience Grants Program is now open for applications. Businesses and not-for-profit community organisations can apply for grants of between $1000 and $30,000 for projects and initiatives to adapt and recover from the pandemic. The $700,000 program is being overseen by 30 business and community member from diverse sectors.
The council’s also introduced a hardship policy to support householders and businesses that will struggle to pay their rates. They will be able to apply for an interest-free deferral of their rates until 30 June 2021.
Another opportunity – the COVID restrictions changed the way we do things, and that can work to the advantage of Bass Coast. In just two months, so many people have become accustomed to working remotely.
As far as my job goes, I’ve been holding regular meetings with federal and state ministers. This week I’ve had a meeting with Adam Somyurek [State Minister for Local Government], a meeting of One Gippsland Wide [in Bairnsdale], a meeting with the Education Department. Normally each meeting would involve travelling to Melbourne or Canberra. And I did them all in one day from home. It’s so much more efficient. I’ve really enjoyed working this way.
Out of difficulty comes new ways of doing things. There are going to be massive opportunities for people to reshape the way they’re working. Many of our people will be able to work virtually and spend more time with family instead of all that time on the road. Melbourne people could work from here, in our beautiful surroundings. Why wouldn’t you? I know where I’d rather be working.
Brett Tessari is Mayor of Bass Coast.