HIGH PRICE: Noosa Council spends millions to prop up businesses
COVID-19 has caused more than a $2.8 million drain to date on Noosa Council coffers as it hands out business support in the form of commercial rental relief to tenants, permit waivers and refunds on camping fees and wedding bookings for its popular recreation areas.
All this has been approved by council CEO Brett de Chastel, who was delegated authorisation powers by the outgoing council to deal with the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on local business and the community.
These costs only cover from March 1 to April 6.
By far the largest pay out to date has been the $1.93 million in early payments for goods and services procured by council from local suppliers from Gympie and throughout Noosa and the Sunshine Coast.
As well council has cost itself more than $284,000 by way of infrastructure charge deferrals. Not collecting footpath dining fees has cost $126,500 while the tenants of the council-owned Surnise shopping centre have received more than $94,000 in rental relief and those at the Peregian Digital Hub more than $17,200.
Wedding booking refunds in that period have cost $11,300 while businesses that have closed up shop and are no longer receiving council waste services have been refunded more than $141,800.
Refunds of cancellation at the Noosa Holiday park alone have cost more than $293,200, Noosa North Shore Beach Campground more than $66,900 and Boreen Point Campground more than $26,300.
And the replacement costs of relieving Noosa lifesavers with lifeguards on the beaches over health and safety concerns for these volunteers has added an extra $81,600 to council’s wages bill.
However the costs have been offset slightly by the forced cancellation of the Go Noosa free bus and transport services over Easter with an estimated $236,000 cost saving.
These figures are contained in a report by Mr de Chastel to the incoming Noosa Council to be discussed this morning. Council will decide on possible ongoing business support to overcome the savage business turndown.
“Details of the potential financial impact of the coronavirus on our council are still being assessed by our finance team,” the CEO said.
“This will be reported separately to council in due course and will have an impact on the final financial position of council for the 2019/20 financial year as well as having significant implications for the upcoming 2020/21 budget.
“The establishment of the delegation provided the council with an opportunity to respond quickly as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded,” Mr de Chastel said.
Mr de Chastel sid coronavirus pandemic is “without doubt one of the most significant health risks faced by our Noosa community and our organisation”.
“Our response has been focused on mitigating those risks. Nevertheless, the impact on our community is very significant in terms of public health, community lifestyle and economic impact,” he said.
The CEO is advocating a “survive, revive and thrive” strategy to Noosa’s handling of the coronavirus crisis with the community still in the survive stage.
“The focus has been to support our community through the shutdown period with a strong emphasis on public health,” he said.
“Local businesses are also being supported to assist them survive the economic downturn.
“Our community services sector is also receiving support to help them provide ongoing service to the community.”
Mr de Chastel said as the public health risk diminishes, the community will emerge from the shutdown phase in “revive” transition mode.
“Restarting businesses, putting the economy back on track, resuming community activities etc will be the focus of this stage,” he said.
“It will require pre-planning to make sure that this stage proceeds smoothly and quickly.”
“As we transition back to business as usual, we will need to recognise that our future economy and ways of operating will undoubtedly be different to what we have had in the past”
“We need to plan well to ensure that we can maximise the many natural advantages that Noosa has to transition to our ‘new normal’,” the CEO said.