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Council leaders urge community to support each other during border restrictions.

20th August 2020

OPEN LETTER FROM SMDC MAYOR AND DEPT MAYOR

NEW BORDER RESTRICTIONS DEVASTATING FOR OUR COMMUNITY

Please see below, an open letter from the Southern Mallee District Council’s Mayor Andrew Grieger, and Deputy Mayor Paul Ireland, on behalf of the Council and all of its Elected Members.

To our community,

We’re writing to let our wider community know that we’re here for you during this distressing time, and we’re imploring all other South Australia residents to show compassion, empathy and support to our Victorian friends and family wherever they can.

We realise the State Government has to make difficult decisions, based on the best advice it can get – and we will continue to support these new measures. However, the new border restrictions coming in to place on Friday, 21 August 2020, are absolutely devastating for many members of our community.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a global crisis, and the Southern Mallee District Council has a key role to play in limiting the spread and impact of it. Council’s priority during the pandemic has always been to protect the health and safety of our residents – and we will continue to do this. However, we’re not just referring to the residents who live in our district, but also our cross-border neighbours who own businesses, go to school, work, do business and are considered an integral part of our local community.

The impact these new restrictions will have on families, businesses, clubs, individuals’ wellbeing and our long-term economy are only just beginning to be seen, as evidenced by the reduction in trade being experienced by some businesses and unfortunately, closure for others. We need to work together and support one-another to ensure we can get through this.

We know that COVID-19 cases are still growing in Victoria and the situation over there is simply heartbreaking. We understand why the SA Government wants to protect its borders and prevent the spread into SA. However, as a Council, we want to support all Australians - whether Victorian/South Australian, or a Murrayville or Pinnaroo resident, and in whatever capacity we can.

While the impacts are not as severe, we have some understanding of the challenges people are experiencing and we sympathise with those affected. As an organisation are preparing and planning to make arrangements and support our Victorian-based staff who cannot come to work from Friday.  We feel for our childcare families who cannot access COGS at the moment and we have committed to hold their places free of charge - knowing that normal subsidies will not be paid and that we will experience economic loss during the border closure period.

Our Business Continuity and Response team continues to meet regularly to stay up to date and respond to the latest advice from the State and Federal Governments, relevant Government health agencies and SAPOL. We encourage our residents to also play their part – observe stricter personal hygiene and social distancing, stay away from public places if you’re unwell, be respectful to service staff and others working under these stressful conditions, care for vulnerable members in our community and above all, show empathy and compassion for all those impacted by the crisis.

Council is listening to local concerns, and we’re making it a priority to advocate for our community’s best interest whenever and wherever possible – this includes with the relevant government officers and Ministers. Our Mayor has also reached out to the Mayor of the Mildura Rural City Council in an effort to work together and support our colleagues and friends in Victoria.

Through our acting CEO, Council is working with the Local Government Functional Support Group (LGFSG) who did some terrific work as incident responders during the bushfire season and are now supporting councils through the pandemic.  The LGFSG have direct links to SAPOL and SA Health and are establishing an Area Liaison Officer role specific to the issues for border councils in an effort to work together and look at options to support our cross-border families and businesses. What we’re hoping for now, through working with other similar border communities, is that we can find some solutions for local families and businesses (and will advise the community as soon as anything comes to light on this).

Council is still delivering essential services like rubbish, roads and other general maintenance. Our recently adopted budget has provided some ease on the financial burden to ratepayers with no increase on the overall amount of rates collected (apart from a very small amount of growth). We also plan to invest heavily into our region by implementing the Lameroo and Pinnaroo town centre revitalisation plans, in a bid to create jobs and opportunities for local businesses. Developing our towns and strengthening the Southern Mallee brand (with the recently adopted visitor and wayfinding signage), will assist our region in the recovery process by attracting people and their expenditure, once travel and tourism resume.

Importantly, we believe Mallee people are some of the most resilient and resourceful people in the country. We have been through some tough times over the decades and this may well prove to be the hardest yet, but I have no doubt that by working together, we can come out even stronger.

We want to keep connected with the broader Southern Mallee community throughout this time, and would encourage anyone with ideas, solutions or emerging issues to contact us for a discussion. As local government we are closer to community than any other level of government, but we also have access to key State and Federal leaders who can help us survive this, so we can assist by passing on the key details from the ground, or via the CEO to the new Area Liaison Officer.

Anyone wishing to connect with the Council is welcome to contact us, or any of the Elected Members, and you can find all of our mobile phone numbers and emails on the council website here: www.southernmallee.sa.gov.au/your-council/contacts.

Sincerely,

.............................................

Mayor Andrew Grieger                                                           Deputy Mayor Paul Ireland

P: 0427 008 341                                                                         P: 0407 715 189

E: andrew.grieger@southernmallee.sa.gov.au E: paul.ireland@southernmallee.sa.gov.au