Our region needs support

Reading a Newspaper

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

It makes no sense for the Yarra Valley to be included in Melbourne’s harsh lockdown restrictions. Our region, characterised by agricultural production, is known internationally for top quality fruit and vegetable produce, world class vineyards, beef, sheep and poultry farms, flower farms, festivals and events. Locals are genuinely concerned by the Andrews Government’s 5 km rule and the classification of our country towns and farmlands as metropolitan in relation to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite Premier Daniel Andrews telling Victorians that all decisions of his Government are based on health advice, the decision to classify the Yarra Valley as Metropolitan Melbourne wasn’t. No medical evidence has been given by the Chief Health Officer for locking up regional communities and treating them like an inner-city suburb of Melbourne. The only reason we’re included in Melbourne’s lockdown is because of arbitrary bureaucratic lines drawn on a map. In contrast, Geelong has been able to continue with more flexibility and lesser restrictions due to their status as part of Regional Victoria, despite reporting 45% more total COVID-19 cases than the Yarra Ranges.

The Yarra Valley is one of Victoria’s top tourist destinations, yet tourism has been hardest hit and local jobs in this sector have been decimated. Many prominent tourism operators have reached out in desperation, deeply frustrated about the lack of Government consultation or roadmap for an industry in crisis. Wineries, farm gates, wedding venues, restaurants, accommodation, tour transport and other tourism experiences have been forced to close, most with no revenue since March. Restricting activities such as weddings, dining-in and overnight stays have meant thousands of cancellations and no new bookings even into 2021. The Andrews Government’s inadequate business grants have gone straight back to State Government coffers to pay for WorkCover insurance (even when no one is allowed to work), licenses, taxes and Council rates.

Our region needs support, not neglect. Our region needs a plan that lifts us up and out of this crisis.

Whilst public health considerations remain vitally important, so too are economic and mental health considerations. The survival of our people depends on it: our resilient business owners, dedicated workers, and charitable community groups.

I trust our people and businesses to be COVID Safe. With zero active COVID-19 cases locally, I’ll keep calling on the Andrews Government to release the Yarra Valley from Melbourne’s lockdown and let us open again. Let’s learn how other States have transitioned their economies with successful COVID Safe practices – our businesses and people are ready and able.