$1.3m relief package for Rockhampton community

RENT relief for commercial tenants, no additional interest on outstanding rates and lease fee refunds are some of the initiatives included in the Rockhampton Regional Council $1.3 million relief package for businesses and community groups affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

A special council meeting was held on Wednesday where councillors and officers, some via teleconference, discussed the details of the package.

Mayor Margaret Strelow said council was putting its shoulder to the wheel during these difficult times to help the community where possible.

“The situation around COVID-19 is changing incredibly quickly, and we know that our community is already feeling the economic impact of this pandemic,” she said.

“Our capacity to offer support is clearly different to other levels of government.

“I’m also very mindful that our rates are collected based on property value and regardless of income, and that we need to think of the fairness of using ratepayer money – which includes money paid by pensioners and those struggling – to support business.

“However, we know that recovery for our community will be smoothest if we can help to keep our local businesses alive and keep people employed.

“We believe that there are many things that we as a council can and should do to support local business, as well as provide some relief to residents and our community more generally.

“We know our community is hurting and council as an organisation will stand shoulder to shoulder with our residents during these tough times.”

The meeting agenda for the package details commentary around the pandemic in the Rockhampton region and council’s financial position.

It is noted that the airport is expected to be significantly affected and this will impact substantially on council’s budget.

Airport landing and parking is expected to decline with a loss of fees.

On a worst-case scenario, employees would still be paid but there will be a loss of productivity.

As businesses are struggling, the ability to pay rates and rents will be stretched and it is most likely that overdue rates and charges debts will increase.

The details for the relief package are as follows.

RATES:

No interest is to be charged on outstanding rate payments until further notice.

A revised rates payment taking into account hardship as a result of COVID-19 has been requested to be presented to the new council.

RENT RELIEF:

Requests for rent relief from council’s commercial tenants, including the airport, to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This is to be decided by the CEO and Mayor with a level of concession of up to six months.

EXISTING LICENSE EXTENSION:

All existing 2019-20 licences for food business, personal appearance business and activities and food van licenses will be effective for two years.

This is a 12 month extension with no additional fees.

SPORTING AND COMMUNITY GROUP LEASE REFUNDS:

The 2019-20 lease fees paid by sporting and community groups would be refunded.

An application for this is to be submitted by June 30.

ANIMAL WELFARE DONATION:

Council would contribute $20,000 each to Capricorn Animal Aid and Central Queensland Animal Society, that have had to put fundraising activities on hold.

ENVIRONMENT AUTHORITIES:

All environmentally relevant authorities are extended for a further 12 months from their anniversary date.

BUSINESS SUPPORT:

Advance Rockhampton will provide in-kind ongoing and continued business support for businesses in the region.

NEW COUNCIL:

Further support could be made available following the election of the new council and budget consideration.



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