COVID-19 and Sydney Events
Private Member's Statement, 18 November 2021, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament
I commend the member for Gosford for that very important contribution and reality check for all members. Tonight I talk about the responsive, proactive and critical work of the City of Sydney under the leadership of Lord Mayor Clover Moore to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID hit our city hard. Each week the lockdowns cost the city economy about $250 million, and the City of Sydney alone lost about $149 million per week. Many in our community have lost their livelihoods or significant income, and some have lost their homes as well. Many have been ill with COVID, and we have had to live with movement and gathering restrictions that have stretched relationships and undermined mental health.
The City of Sydney has focused on helping vulnerable communities, small business operators and creatives survive the worst of the pandemic, and the council is now supporting our city to recover. It responded to the first wave of COVID by waiving inspection, footpath dining and other administration fees. The council gave an estimated $7.8 million of rent relief to commercial tenants, plus more than $2 million for childcare providers and almost $3 million for social, cultural and creative programs. The council cancelled parking fees and provided parking permits for essential workers when public transport was a health risk. City of Sydney supported many organisations offering food security and community building projects and provided thousands of re-usable face masks for vulnerable residents, with a further $5 million given to support vulnerable communities in July. Major grants for charities like OzHarvest helped to make sure that people with no money had nutritious food to eat.
City of Sydney supported sole traders, micro and small businesses by calling for extended New South Wales Government support and by advocating with businesses for the return of JobKeeper to provide funding certainty. Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully and I asked the State and Federal governments to underwrite pandemic insurance for the events sector. Late last year, City of Sydney worked with the New South Wales Government on the alfresco summer program, which supported artists, musicians and performers to activate the CBD. I note that people across Sydney are looking forward to the George Street long table lunch on 3 September. The council reallocated on-street parking spaces to expand outdoor dining so that the hospitality sector had a safe space for customers. City of Sydney approved 260 outdoor dining applications, which 90 per cent of businesses have said has been crucial for their survival. As a result, half of those businesses have employed two or more extra staff and nearly 60 per cent have reported increased turnover.
Support is continuing, with another $4 million in business support grants becoming available from February next year. Having attended meetings between NSW Health officers and Lord Mayor Clover Moore, I can attest to her determination to ensure that everybody had access to vaccination in the City Of Sydney. This collaboration meant that the local health district could vaccinate at hubs in Town Hall and at council community facilities in Glebe, Redfern, Surry Hills, Ultimo, Waterloo and Zetland, and get on-the-ground advice about outreach to vulnerable and isolated communities, particularly social housing tenants and First Nations people.
The pandemic has reminded us about the vital role of public spaces, especially green open space. During this last council term, City of Sydney has invested $319 million to maintain and renew local roads, paths, playgrounds and parks. Since 2004 the council has added more than 24 hectares of new open space in its heavily built-up city centre. On behalf of my constituents I thank the City of Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully, as well as all councillors, council CEO Monica Barone and City of Sydney staff for ensuring we survived through the pandemic and are now ready to recover and renew. Experience overseas suggests that there may be more waves of illness and restrictions ahead, along with repeat vaccinations. I trust that City of Sydney will continue to act decisively to protect residents, businesses and communities into the future.