Council waives rents as part of $1m in COVID-19 support
A total of $1 million in measures to assist with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic was approved at a special Gladstone Regional Council meeting today.
One of the major planks of the support package is the waiving of commercial rents on council-owned or managed land from March 1 to June 30 if businesses are not covered by insurance.
There was some debate on whether commercial rents should effectively be covered by public money when many businesses were eligible for state and federal support.
Deputy mayor Chris Trevor flagged the possibility of the measure creating an unfair advantage over businesses paying commercial rent privately, but said GRC should lead by example.
"If we were to approve this particular matter before us we may also set an example to other landlords to follow," he said.
Cr Trevor said tenants and landlords should work together to allow small businesses to continue operating and employing local people.
"This is the precedent we would like to set," he said.
Councillor Kahn Goodluck said that while council could not assist every business, helping those it could would leave the region better placed on the other side of the health emergency.
He said that if the measures helped businesses stay afloat, they would help to create jobs and pay wages.
The suite of measures also includes extending food and trade waste licences for six months, the freezing of interest on outstanding rates and financial support for sporting and community organisations.
There will be a $600,000 net impact on the current financial year, $400,000 of which will come from redirected funds allocated for event expenditure in the current budget.
The meeting was held less than a week before elections with the council in caretaker mode.
Cr Glenn Churchill didn't totally agree with making a decision for the incoming council, but said the current situation was an extraordinary emergency.
"Doing absolutely nothing is not an option," he said.
Incoming councillors will receive advice before June 30 outlining other measures that may reduce the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO Leisa Dowling confirmed that the advice from the Department of Local Government was the measures were not outside of caretaker provisions.
She said that extending deadlines for council payments, licences and approvals were measures that could be taken on a local government level to provide support.
Ms Dowling advised people to contact the council by telephone or online.
"We do have people available 24/7 to talk to people for urgent matters and during business hours for those other matters that people might need some advice for," she said.