Local governments keeping beaches and green spaces COVID-safe; help needed from NSW Government

Councils have welcomed the NSW Government announcement of a new plan to keep popular outdoor areas open and people COVID-safe over summer but are calling for funding support to ensure they are properly resourced to prevent overcrowding.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said while the Government’s COVID Safe Summer Plan set helpful guidelines and would help educate the public before the annual influx to the State’s coastal areas, parks and outdoor areas, much more needed to be done to keep people COVID-safe.

“Councils agree with the NSW Government – we want NSW to open up for the health and wellbeing as well as the economic recovery of our State, and we’re working with the NSW Government to deliver this,” Cr Scott said.

“Councils welcome the Government’s today’s (21 September 2020) safe summer plan announcement, but we need to know funding details so we can make the plan a reality and keep people safe.

“This includes vital issues such as funding support for COVID-safe marshals to ensure social distancing, safe practices and manage crowds if necessary.

“Existing council rangers are already stretched to the limit on a regular summer and do not have enforcement powers or the capacity to undertake additional COVID roles.”

Cr Scott said council already invested significant time and resources ensuring public spaces, including restaurants and cafes for outdoor dining, beaches, parks and other outdoor areas were clean, vibrant, well maintained and effectively regulated for maximum safety.

“But these efforts are resource demanding and councils simply aren’t funded to do it alone,” she said.

“We welcome the NSW Government’s plan, which capitalises on excellent work already done at a local level by councils such as Northern Beaches, but more funding is needed to help councils implement the rules.

“Crowds will need to be managed once warmer weather arrives, and councils will need the NSW Government to work with us to ensure a consistent and effective approach.”

LGNSW organised a meeting with coastal mayors, NSW Police and Surf Life Saying NSW (SLSNSW) earlier this month to determine what was needed to manage beaches and avoid a repeat of last summer, when droves of beachgoers largely ignored social distancing and safety protocols.

Following the meeting, LGNSW wrote to NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian, calling for:

  • A beaches and open spaces COVID-safety communications plan in conjunction with councils;
  • Funding support for a proposed new app or enhanced SLSNSW app that would update people in real time on the crowd status of beaches so they could plan their visits;
  • Funding support for COVID beach marshals to ensure safe practices and manage crowds.

Cr Scott said she appreciated the NSW Government was already shouldering a difficult burden during the coronavirus pandemic, but the proposals would ultimately save resources and possibly lives.

“Consistent communication about the State’s beaches and improved compliance by the public will reduce the burden on police resources,” she said.

“It allows the people of NSW to use the beaches in the safest possible way, supports local businesses and will assist in our state’s economic recovery.”

Source: LGNSW