OUTDOOR MEETING: Richmond Valley Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald meets with mayor Robert Mustow in the time of social distancing.
OUTDOOR MEETING: Richmond Valley Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald meets with mayor Robert Mustow in the time of social distancing.

Council’s $142,000 COVID-19 plan to help community

RICHMOND Valley Council has a $142,000 plan to help businesses and the community survive coronavirus.

Council's COVID-19 Community and Economic Resilience package was developed to provide assistance to community and businesses, while minimising the risk to the council's financial sustainability.

General manager Vaughan Macdonald said the package focused efforts on the areas where the council could effect changes.

"The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent public health orders implemented by the NSW Government are placing enormous strain on communities and businesses," Mr Macdonald said.

"The rapidly changing nature of this crisis, and the presently unmeasurable impacts on our community and economy, mean that Council will need to continue to adapt and investigate ways it can assist the community and businesses to be resilient through these challenging times."

Mr Macdonald said the package would be delivered in two phases.

He said beyond providing financial hardship support to ratepayers, and making changes to the council's procurement policy to favour local businesses and fast-track invoice payments - all of which were necessary, immediate levers to pull - the initial response phase and strategic recovery actions also included the waiving and refund of interest, and some fees and charges.

A list of projects put forward for funding under the Drought Communities Program is also being considered.

The Australian Government provided $1 million in grant funding to support local infrastructure and other drought-relief activities with the aim to provide short-term support, including boosting and procurement, and addressing social and community needs.

Council sought input from the community on how to allocate the grant funding, and received a number of ideas and suggestions, including:

• Paddock-to-Plate collaborative - connecting agriculture, food and tourism sectors

• Public water access points

• Improvements to the Casino Showground facilities, including airconditioning, insulation and upgrade of kitchen facilities in the Ray Mison Pavilion

• Free water play area installed in a park in the Valley

• Enhancements to community halls to build resilience

• Assist owners in the Casino and Coraki townships to carry out maintenance and conservation works to buildings of historical significance

• Harvesting and reuse of stormwater

Mr Macdonald said although the meeting was open to the public, this would be provided by using technology.

He said people can still submit questions before the council's extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, April 7 meeting, which would be considered by councillors.

As it is an extraordinary council meeting, there is no public access provided under the Code of Meeting Practice.

"We understand people are entitled to view democracy in action and to put questions to Council at a regular open meeting," Mr Macdonald said.

"However, given the advice on social distancing and hygiene recommendations it will be difficult for us to provide a low-risk environment for the gallery."

Mr Macdonald said a live stream option from the council's Facebook page was available, which gave real time access to the meeting from 5pm Tuesday, April 7.



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