Council adapts to crisis

Yarra Ranges Mayor Richard Higgins.

Yarra Ranges Council has made significant changes to the way it will run during the coronavirus crisis.

At a Special Council Meeting on 31 March, councillors voted to delegate authority to the CEO should there be a situation in which Council meetings cannot take place.

This would see the CEO able to make decisions that would otherwise be made by the council, if further lockdowns and tighter restrictions prevent councillors meeting in person.

Currently, the Local Government Act requires councillors to be physically present at Council meetings.

Yarra Ranges Mayor Richard Higgins said in a statement that without intervention from the State Government, Council needs to ensure business continuity can be maintained.

“We are currently involved in some advocacy work as part of the Eastern Region Group of Councils (ERG) calling on the State Government to change these requirements so that councillors can meet remotely via online methods,” he said.

“Similar changes have been made by the State Government of New South Wales.

“Last night’s decision, while certainly an unprecedented one, was essential to ensure we can continue to support our community through the current disruption and uncertainty.”

Changes to council meetings will also take place during the coronavirus outbreak with meetings occurring monthly rather than fortnightly.

Council meetings will continue to be livestreamed.

Cr Higgins also announced that he wrote to the Premier to ask that businesses including local butchers, bakers, greengrocers, other small food providers and plant nurseries be defined as essential services, to ensure they can remain open should further lockdown measures be introduced.

“Yarra Ranges Council understands the significant impacts this pandemic is having on families, businesses and individuals who have lost their jobs, and we have been contacted by a number of people concerned about their ability to pay rates,” Cr Higgins said.

“In response to this, we are developing some very specific relief measures. Later this week I will be announcing the first of a number of measures that we will be developing over the coming weeks to help relieve some of the pain many of you are experiencing.”