Relief package to support local economy
Published: 17 Jul 2020 7:55am
Wagga Wagga City Council has developed a number of initiatives in its COVID-19 Relief Package to help mitigate pandemic impacts on the local economy.
The initiatives will complement the Live local. Be local. Activation Plan developed by the Business Support Group, and aim to support the development of industry, local businesses, community organisations and the broader community.
Council Director Regional Activation Michael Keys said the pandemic has caused disruption and economic impact that is unparalleled in contemporary times.
“Global impacts on health, trade and production are affecting all levels of the Australian economy. The macro impacts have resulted in substantial decline in Gross Domestic Product and local regional economies are at risk of reduced productivity, consumption and employment availability,” Mr Keys said.
“The Wagga Wagga Local Government Area is not immune to any effects of the pandemic, and the measures we take at a local level to complement State and Federal initiatives is equally important, if not more so, to how we adapt to these challenges and develop new opportunities for the future.
“This package extends to sporting and community groups through to local business and industry, and how we can support them and help keep them viable through these times."
Mr Keys said a key aim was to activate the CBD and get more people into the retail precinct, accessing those local businesses and supporting them.
“We also want to make it easier for business people to come in and establish a new business or grow their current operations. This is about encouraging people to get out there and have a go with a level of support from Council,” he said.
“We’re here to support and be part of the community and take up some of that burden on the community. That’s the challenge for us all … it’s about being proactive and how we prepare for the next phase, rather than sit there and think ‘what went wrong’.
“It’s also important to acknowledge that this has been a joint effort through consultation with key stakeholders in the regional business and industry sectors. Many people have contributed time and effort towards finding positive outcomes moving forward.”
The package supports Wagga Wagga through the following five elements:
1. Small Business support (see separate article in this edition of Council News)
2. Seasonal user fees for sporting groups: 50% reduction in Parks and Sportsground Fees and Charges and 20% for Multipurpose stadium and Bolton Park stadium for the 2020/21 financial year
3. Commercial lease agreements - National Cabinet Mandatory Code of Conduct: A component estimated to provide more than $129K in rent relief to Council tenants.
4. COVID-19 Infrastructure Contributions Relief Package: Defer Payment of Infrastructure Contributions for 12 months for major developments that support employment and investment in the city; Waive Sewer Infrastructure Contributions for Change of Use in the CBD; Modify timing for Sewer and Stormwater contributions conditioned at construction for Commercial and Industrial Buildings Only.
5. Hardship policy for commercial tenants: The opportunity is available for business property owners to reserve rate relief and other initiatives.
SMALL BUSINESS VITAL TO LOCAL ECONOMY
There are more than 5,600 businesses in the Wagga Wagga LGA and 98 per cent of them are considered small business (employing less than 50 staff). As the largest employment sector, small businesses are critical to maintaining a diverse workforce and career pathways for local youth. Whilst the sector is innovative and well suited to adapting to changing conditions small businesses across the economy have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent hit to the local economy, Council brought together the Business Support Group. This team of local business leaders provided feedback from the community and insights into how to support the local economy that have been integrated into a Live local. Be local. Activation Plan.
The plan is a business, community and Council collaborative which has three main elements including:
1. Main Street Live – we’re bringing vibrancy back to the heart of the city!
A key attraction in our city is events that celebrate who we are and what we have to offer. We’ve missed some key events but this just means a more action packed mix is coming soon
This component responds to the Notice of Motion for Main Street Events (April, 2018). A schedule of main street activities and events are scheduled for the next 12 months. We plan to catch up on all the fun we’ve missed during COVID-19 restrictions, so check out the event calendar on Visit Wagga and join us in the city. This is subject to ongoing review in response to COVID-19 restrictions and status updates.
2. Main Street Local – made great, in Wagga!
The region has some incredibly talented people that create amazing artwork, make unique products, craft delicious cuisine, and provide award winning service. Eastern Riverina Arts and the business community are looking to make the main street experience even better through the Creative Spaces initiative.
The aim is to fill empty shops with artists to not only showcase the fantastic local art, but also get people back into the CBD and demonstrate the potential of a thriving main street.
3. Main Street Hub – innovation leads to growth
Innovative entrepreneurs have the potential to kick-start the local economy and solve community and industry problems quickly. The business community is collaborating to create a hub that will help facilitate collaboration and ensure our up-and-coming business leaders have the space and support they need to make their business a reality.
In addition to these three Activation Plan elements being implemented by the broader business community, the following Council-specific initiatives are also being considered in order to encourage economic growth:
- Small business grants applications for the 2020 Small Business category of Council’s Annual Grants Program have increased by 260% compared to 2019. This increase is due in part to the success of last year’s program as well as greater awareness via promotion through business and industry networks in response to COVID-19 restrictions. An increase in funding by Council of $20,000. The increase will see up to an additional 10 businesses receive funding. The program is designed to provide seed funding to small businesses to accelerate their idea or growth opportunity.
- Improved Business Support with Council, Greater support for New Business Development Proposals. Council’s Regional Activation Team is working closely with City Development to provide concierge services for some change of use activities within the CBD. Our aim is to simplify processes and guide proponents through the process and Council services to enable simple applications to be made easier for our customers and reduce the amount of time required to approve development. Council has been identified as a pilot program to leverage from the NSW Government’s Planning Acceleration Program.