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DOUGLAS Shire Council has adopted further measures to help local businesses as economic predictions reveal the Gross Regional Product could decline by 25.3% this quarter due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

In a recent presentation to Council, Economic advisory firm, ID. Consulting Pty Ltd, forecast that the region could lose up to 12.7% of local jobs by the end of June this year.

This equates to a loss of 828 jobs and $185 million from the local economy since June 2019.

If Jobkeeper recipients are included, the loss of employment is expected to reach 23.7%, or 1,547 jobs.

Council today formalised additional initiatives such as strengthening the local weighting in its procurement policy and allocated funding towards an Economic Recovery Community Webinar Program for Douglas businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Recruitment for a Tourism and Economic Development Officer is also underway to help the region better respond to economic impacts, enhance job opportunities and support local businesses.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said Council would continue to work with the community to work through this challenging period.

“Council is acutely aware of the severe impact that COVID-19 is having on our economy and we are working hard to put things in place to get us through it,” he said.

“By partnering with a local consulting business, Council is able to roll out a webinar series to help businesses get back on track and gain more skills to help navigate through COVID-19.

“The strengthening of our procurement policy will also give local businesses the best opportunity to benefit from the significant local investment Council makes every year.”

Summary of initiatives adopted in May 2020

  • Economic Recovery Community Webinar ($9,600)
  • Increasing the weighting for local suppliers from 10% to 20%.
  • Waive the Backflow Registration charges for 1 April – 30 June 2020
  • Waive the Daintree Ferry charges for buses from 18 March – 30 June 2020 3.
  • Waive the Daintree Ferry charges for all vehicles from 8 April 2020 – 30 June 2020
  • Extend the Daintree Ferry Multi-Day passes to be valid until 31 December 2020 (previously expired 30 June 2020)

Council will consider further measures during the preparation of the 2020/2021 Annual Budget.

The announcements follow the launch of the Economic Recovery Group’s Buy Douglas: Build Douglas campaign, which is encouraging people to support local businesses.

The Economic Recovery Group features Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD), Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation, Council, Douglas Chamber of Commerce and Australian Industry Group.

Council’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Stoermer, who chairs the Economy Recovery Group, said stakeholders would continue to discuss ways to help the local business sector.

“The Economic Recovery Group meets regularly to discuss initiatives and projects that could help mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” he said.

“This includes campaigns such as Buy Douglas: Build Douglas and planning for the possibility of holding events once restrictions ease later in the year. “

Earlier measures announced:

  • Buy Douglas: Build Douglas campaign.
  • Recruitment of a Tourism and Economic Development Officer
  • Waive interest on rates and water – until 30 June 2020
  • Remove rates dishonour admin fees – until 30 June 2020
  • Pensioner remission application dates extended to 30 June 2020
  • Credit or refund all outdoor dining fees – until 30 June 2020
  • Refund all venue hire fees where cancelled due to Covid-19
  • Rent relief – waive rent for all Council commercial tenants suffering financial stress or hardship due to Covid-19, as defined by their eligibility for the Commonwealth Government’s Jobkeeper program (excluding peppercorn leases, Government  entities) until 30 June 2020
  • Wonga Beach Caravan Park income relief until 30 June 2020
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